U.N. Hopeful for Former Communists
GENEVA (AP) _ Economic development in the former communist countries of eastern Europe and central Asia will be higher this year than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a United Nations agency said Wednesday.
The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe said, however, that many of the countries of the former Soviet bloc, Yugoslavia and Albania still have painful adjustments to make in the move toward a market economy.
UNECE predicted that the gross domestic product for the 27 nations of the region would grow by more than 5 percent in 2000, outstripping western Europe and matching North America.
``Strong import demand from western Europe gave a boost to exports from the transition economies while commodity exporters benefited from higher global demand and rising commodity prices,″ said the 176-page Economic Survey of Europe.
The improving performance is likely to peak this year and fall off to around 4.2 percent in 2001, it said.
``I think there is hopefully the beginning of a new trend, but we must remember that this is very often from a very low base,″ Danuta Huebner, UNECE executive secretary, told reporters. ``So we need many years of strong growth really to feel the impact on the standard of living of the population.″
``For a few countries this will be the decade of completion, but unfortunately for most this will be a decade of very painful changes,″ she said.
In western Europe, UNECE predicted growth of 3.4 percent in 2000 and 3.1 percent in 2001. Growth in the United States will decline from 5.2 percent this year to 3.2 percent in 2001.
Like other forecasts from major international bodies, UNECE said levels of economic growth in the world’s major economies are likely to fall over the next year. But it said it saw little risk of a major rise in inflation in western Europe, and therefore no reason for a tightening of monetary policy.
Huebner said the situation in Russia was particularly encouraging.
``In Russia, we can take note of more market-oriented behavior among companies, and I think this has always been a crucial element in all countries in transition that are successful today,″ she said.