Statistical data shows the world economic crisis is ruining Macedonia’s heavy industry, the backbone of its economy, while businessman fear the worst is yet to come. Macedonia's Statistics Office said industrial output dropped 10 percent in December 2008 compared with the same month in 2007. The largest drop in production of 60 percent was recorded in the metal industry, a sector that contributes over 40 percent of the country’s annual exports.
The latest Statistics Office report is pessimistic about the short-term economic outlook, conveying the worries of business leaders that they could face a sharp drop in demand and very low prices on the market. Some of the factories have already laid off workers.
The economic downturn led the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development this week to revise its forecasts for the whole South Eastern Europe region, now expected to post annual growth of 1.9 percent, some 1.5 percentage points less then the projection made by the bank in November. The projected economic growth of Macedonia is now wound back to 3 percent from 4.7 in November.
Despite the grim projections, Macedonia's Finance Minister Trajko Slaveski said there is no need for the country to revise its growth forecast yet, set by the 2009 budget at a relatively high 5.5 percent.
In 2008, the country posted 5.7 percent of growth.
“We are at the beginning of the year and it is too early for any conclusions yet”, Slaveski told local VREME daily.