LONDON (Reuters) - Central and eastern European countries have become stuck in a “middle-income trap” and need new growth strategies and infrastructure to kick off again, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said on Wednesday.
The development bank’s latest report flags the plateau which eastern and central European countries are perceived to have reached more than quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War and Soviet central economic planning.
Former-communist economies are also still producing too much pollution and although there appears to be a renewed appetite for reform in the bloc, some including Poland and Ukraine have stalled in areas like privatisation, it said.
“Many of those countries have now reached middle-income status and have to overcome the problem of the ‘middle-income trap’,” EBRD Chief Economist Sergei Guriev said.
The trap is common phenomenon for developing countries. Growth slows as technological advances in the economy become more incremental and rising wages erode the competitive advantages of cheap labour.
Guriev called for new economic models, focussing on improving productivity of individual firms, expanding infrastructure and green growth.
“There is no silver bullet – no one-size-fits-all solution,” he said, with the report also highlighting there was often resistance from individuals and groups with entrenched vested interests in maintaining the status quo.
Across the EBRD region meanwhile, which now spans 38 countries from Morocco to Mongolia, the bank estimated that 1.9 trillion euros (£1.69 trillion) needed to be spent on improving infrastructure over the next five years.
It pointed to the example of Turkey, where upgrading the country’s large road network had a major positive impact on domestic trade among its provinces.
A revamped points system in the report for how countries are faring with reforms showed differing pictures.
“The appetite for reform seems to have returned to the region,” Guriev said flagging Uzbekistan - which recently returned to the EBRD fold after a decade-long standoff - and Egypt, both floating their previously-pegged currencies.
Greece, Slovenia and Kazakhstan have made progress with privatisations while Tunisia and Jordan, Albania and Belarus and Serbia were all singled out for progress in other areas.
Ukraine’s privatisation programme however has largely stalled with its largest bank, Privatbank, now nationalised.
Poland, where state control over the economy remains significant, has also called a halt to its privatisation programme.
Reporting by Marc Jones Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.