By resorting to the analytical integrated accounts framework, this paper investigates the relationship between economic and financial imbalances during the recent economic and financial cycle in Lithuania. There is clear evidence from the financial accounts data that there was a pronounced expansion of balance sheets of institutional sectors during the phase of the economic upturn, whereas the economic downturn was essentially a balance-sheet recession characterised by contracting private sector balance sheets and the reversal in credit flows and monetary dynamics. The boom-and-bust cycle was strongly associated with exuberant bank lending during the boom years, followed by a sudden reversal of lending conditions and the subsequent repatriation of debt financing by foreign banks.
The Lithuanian experience also confirms that strong credit and asset price boom accompanied by economic imbalances, and debt financing of current account deficits in particular, is a potentially risky mix of economic conditions. The policy response to crisis was a market-imposed austerity but nevertheless there was a sharp rise in public debt, essentially offsetting deleveraging in the private sector. The effective replacement of growth of private sector debt with a rapid accumulation of public debt was a very important stabilising factor.
Certain characteristics of bank credit (namely, its partial self-financing) imply that under some conditions economic stabilisation could have been achieved through domestic financing. However, the government had to resort to foreign financing, which was rather costly. During the crisis the monetary dynamics was driven by government borrowing from abroad, stepped up capital transfers from abroad and positive current account adjustments, all of which allowed foreign parent banks to withdraw debt financing and replace it with domestic deposit financing.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Bank of Lithuania.