Economic activity in Cyprus contracted sharply in the first half of the year due to the COVID-19 crisis with the important tourism sector bearing the brunt while domestic demand showed resilience.
This is what the autumn economic forecasts presented on Thursday by the European Commission in Brussels said.
“GDP is expected to decline by 6.2% in 2020 and recover by 3.7% in 2021 and 3.0% in 2022,” according to the forecast.
“Unemployment from 8.2% in 2020 will decrease to 7.8% in 2021 and 7.2% in 2022. Inflation from -0.9% in 2020 will become positive 0.9% in 2021 and 1.3% in 2022, while the deficit from -6.1% in 20202 will be reduced to -2.3% for 2021 and 2022,” it added.
At the same time, the debt from 112.6% in 2020 will be reduced to 108.2% in 2021 and 102.8 % in 2022.
According to the forecast, in the first half of the year, economic activity declined sizeably by 5.5% y-o-y, dragged by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and accompanying lockdown measures.
Domestic demand fared better than anticipated early this summer, notably private consumption. Investment, particularly construction fell significantly.
Exports of goods and services also declined considerably, the latter reflecting the impact of travel restrictions on tourism.
The relatively contained epidemiological situation on the island allowed for a gradual relaxation of lockdown measures within the country as of May.
This gave way to a gradual recovery of domestic demand over the summer, as suggested by high- frequency indicators, such as credit card use and production indices.
However, growth in the fourth quarter is set to slow down, as economic sentiment and consumer confidence remain low and the epidemiological situation in Cyprus and its main trading partners is worsening. For the year 2020 as a whole, GDP growth is forecast to fall by 6.2%.
Tourist arrivals between January and September were down by some 85%, while revenues between January and July were nearly 90% lower.
Tourist arrivals from the UK and Russia – Cyprus’s main tourist markets – plummeted, as some travel restrictions remained throughout the summer for travellers from the two countries.
The recovery of the sector to its pre-crisis level is expected to take longer than the forecast horizon.
“GDP growth is projected to increase by 3,75% in 2021 and 3% in 2022, when output is expected to slightly exceed its pre-pandemic level. The recovery is expected to be driven by domestic demand,” the forecast reads.
Private consumption, it says, “is set to rebound due to pent up demand. Public consumption is expected to continue growing, due to the stimulus measures extended into 2021 and the planned increases in compensation of employees.
“Investment is set to partially recover thanks to on- going tourism-related infrastructure projects.”
By contrast, the European Commission projects, “demand for high-end residences is set to slow down, due to the abolition of the investor citizenship scheme.
“The broad utilisation of the temporary income support schemes – up to 65% of eligible employees – has helped to keep unemployment at low levels so far. Since June, the schemes have been targeted to tourism sector, planned to continue until March 2021.”
“The large pre-crisis private and public sector debt increases the risks of a prolonged economic downturn. The planned expiration of loan payment moratoria at the end of the year, with a sizeable take-up by the tourism industry point to challenges ahead.
“The potential impact of the Cypriot Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) on growth remains an upside risk,” it adds.
Headline inflation is forecast to be “negative in 2020, at -0.9% down from 0.5% in 2019, mainly driven by lower energy prices and non-energy industrial goods. Inflation is set to rebound gradually in 2021 and 2022 at 0.9% and 1.3%, respectively, on the back of increasing food and services prices.”
“The general government balance is forecast to record a deficit of 6.1% of GDP in 2020 after a surplus of 1.5% of GDP in 2019. Fiscal performance in 2020 is projected to be severely affected by falling revenues and the deficit- increasing fiscal measures adopted to fight the crisis,” it notes. (CNA)