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No 50

Anatomy of inflationary shock in Lithuania: causes, effects and implications

  • Abstract

    After a decade of muted consumer price growth, inflation has picked up again, with the price increase of many goods and services spiking in 2022. Two extraordinary events – the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian aggression against Ukraine – played a leading role in the jump in inflation. The high risk of deep recession in 2020-2021 forced governments and central banks to implement various supportive measures. As the economies adapted to the pandemic, recoveries followed unexpectedly quickly with the help of expansive monetary and fiscal policies. Nevertheless, pandemic-induced supply-chain disruptions have resulted in delivery delays and increased production and transportation costs across the globe. Thus, recovering demand faced a still-constrained supply. In 2021, recovering economies were hit by another shock – the Russian war against Ukraine. The war contributed to a rise in energy prices (notably, that of natural gas, which Europe was especially dependent on). All these factors – expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, rapidly recovering economies, residual post-pandemic disruptions in supply chains, and increases in energy prices – have led to an unexpected rise in inflation throughout the world, including Lithuania.

    In this occasional paper, we analyse various topics related to inflation in Lithuania, predominantly focusing on the recent inflationary episode. The latter rise of inflation was unprecedented. In 2022, average annual inflation reached 18.9 per cent in Lithuania, a level which had not been seen for more than two decades. We analyse the nature of the recent inflation shock, duration, underlying causes, and consequences. While this study mainly deals with Lithuania, it also addresses the question of whether its inflation dynamics differs from that in the rest of the euro area, and if so, how. The study thus contributes to a more nuanced understanding of inflationary process in Lithuania. While integrated within the general topic, each of the chapters in the study can be seen as separate analytical notes focusing on distinct topics.

    In Section 1.1. (“Stylized facts of consumer price dynamics”) and Section 1.2 ("Dynamics of consumer, producer and input prices”), we provide an overview of the dynamics of inflation and its components in Lithuania over the past two decades. During the economic boom of 2004 to 2008, Lithuania experienced an upward pressure in consumer prices. This ended in 2009 with the global financial crisis, which triggered a significant downturn in the Lithuanian economy. Afterwards, a period of relative stability in inflation took place until the COVID-19 pandemic. At its start in 2020, consumer price inflation decelerated, but price growth picked up in 2021-2022. Since reaching its peak in 2022, the annual inflation rate has been steadily declining. Historically, energy prices in Lithuania have been characterized by especially high volatility. During periods of higher inflation, they have been one of the main drivers of inflation, while during periods of lower inflation, energy prices have been an important factor reducing it.

    In Section 1.3. (“Inflation expectations of Lithuanian households”) and Section 1.4. (“Inflation expectations of Lithuanian firms”), we use existing survey data on Lithuanian households’ and firms’ inflation expectations to better understand their evolution in the recent high inflation environment. A clear upward bias can be observed in households’ and firms’ inflation expectations. However, there is also a significant co-movement between actual inflation and inflation expectations. As inflation started to decline in 2023, similar trends can be observed in inflation expectations. 

    In Section 2.1. (“Effects of energy supply shocks on price inflation along the production chain”), we assess the impact of energy supply shocks on price inflation along the production chain in Lithuania. The energy shocks are identified in two independent monthly BVAR models (Messner and Zorner (2023)). Producer price inflation for energy and food reacts at half the rate of equivalent international inflation in the month of the shock and then continues to rise for a year or year and a half. Consumer food price inflation reacts to a similar extent as producer food price inflation, while consumer energy price inflation reacts to a lesser extent than producer energy price inflation. More importantly, these reactions occur with a lag of about one year after the shock. Finally, the impact at the bottom of the production chain, i.e. on core consumer price inflation, is quite limited. Overall, this section shows that energy supply shocks propagate gradually through the supply chain over time and are not passed on, on a one-by-one basis, to the final consumer.

    In Section 2.2. (“Wage and price responses to aggregate and labour market shocks”), we assess how global and labour market shocks affect wages and consumer prices in Lithuania, and how wage responses in turn affect prices in a quarterly BVAR. Aggregate demand, aggregate supply, labour supply and wage markup shock s are identified following Foroni et al. (2018). The impulse response functions (IRFs) show that global macroeconomic shocks have a persistently higher impact on wages (hourly earnings) and consumer prices than labour-specific shocks. Typical price and wage reactions have their maximum effects after about a year, underlining their rigidity to change. Counterfactual scenarios, in which wages do not react to shocks, reveal that such wage-price spirals can be significant after aggregate supply and demand shocks. Following a demand shock, wage reactions fuel price reactions in the medium term. Following a supply shock, wage reactions counterbalance price reactions over time.

    In Section 2.3. (“Energy price inflation shocks in Lithuania and the Euro area”), we analyse how the energy price shocks affect economies in Lithuania and the Euro area. We estimate two separate BVAR models (one for Lithuania, the other for the EA), including respective time series from 2002Q1 to 2022Q4 of yoy energy, food, and core HICP inflation, as well as the unemployment rate and yoy total compensation per employee, following Corsello and Tagliabracci (2023). The IRFs show that Lithuania was more vulnerable to, and more affected by, energy price inflation shocks than the EA on average over the period. For an equivalent energy shock, the effects on HICP consumer price and wage inflation were larger and more persistent.

    In Section 2.4. (“What has driven the surge in inflation in Lithuania? A production-side decomposition.”), using input-output tables, we decompose the inflation into its four drivers – prices of energy, prices of other imported products, wages and gross operating surplus. In our analysis, we focus on the period from 2021Q1 to 2023Q2 and find that all these supply-side factors contributed significantly to the increase in price level. We show that wage increases accounted for 40% of the calculated increase in price level, while the remaining increase was accounted for in broadly similar proportions by higher energy costs, more expensive imports of non-energy goods and services, and an increase in non-energy sector gross operating surplus (profit). The analysis also indicates that the recent increase in production costs has not yet been fully passed on to consumer prices in 2023Q2.

    In Section 2.5. (“Lithuania’s nominal effective exchange rate fluctuations and domestic inflation.”), we analyse whether changes in nominal effective exchange rates have played a significant role in the recent surge of inflation. A relatively large share of Lithuanian imports is denominated in foreign currency, implying that inflation can be at least partially explained by currency depreciation. To determine the exchange rate pass-through to prices, a simple VAR analysis is conducted. The results of analysis indicate that exchange rate pass-through to import prices is incomplete in Lithuania, meaning that there is no tit-for-tat increase in import prices following currency depreciation. The pass-through for producer and consumer prices is even lower. Nominal exchange rate developments explain slightly more than 10% of import price variability, yet only about 1% of producer and consumer price variability. It follows that although the depreciation of the euro contributed to increasing inflation in the most recent inflation period (2021–2022) in Lithuania, its impact on producer and consumer prices was very limited.

    In Section 2.6 (“A comparison of consumption basket item weights and price levels in Lithuania and the euro area”), we analyse if the differences in the composition of consumption baskets in Lithuania and euro area can explain a significant portion of inflation differentials. While gradually converging, the structure of the Lithuanian consumption basket still differs somewhat from that in the EA average. The greatest differences exist in the weights of services and food. In countries with a higher standard of living, households tend to spend less on basic needs and more on services. The same trends are observed in the development of the Lithuanian economy; as the standard of living approaches the EU average, the price level also converges, and services become a more prominent part of the consumption basket. Different weights of various goods and services in consumption baskets lead to different item weights for inflation calculation. Our calculations show that if in Lithuania we had HICP weights equal to those in the EA, our average annual headline inflation rate would have been about 1.6 percentage points lower than the factual in 2022.

    In Section 2.7. (“Can price level convergence explain longer-term differences in inflation rates across euro area countries?”), following Honohan and Lane (2003), we provide evidence that in a monetary union, remaining price level differences lead to higher inflation in countries with lower price levels. For every single percentage point (pp) deviation below the average price level, countries experience around 0.02-0.036 pp higher inflation. In 2022, the price level in Lithuania was still 26 percent below the EU average. This would imply that the annual inflation in Lithuania could be about 0.5-0.9 pp higher than EA average due to the price level convergence in 2022.

    The unexpectedly high inflation has affected government finances substantially. In Section 3 (“Implications of temporary acceleration in inflation for public finances”), we analyse the implications of higher inflation on the fiscal position of the general government sector. We break down recent general government revenue growth into four explanatory factors: real economic activity, price growth, the effect of government’s discretionary decisions (fiscal measures) and the unexplained component or tax residual. Our decompositions show that in 2021-2022, the observed increase in tax revenue was significantly affected by the strong growth of the macroeconomic bases and implemented fiscal measures. As regards the impact of inflation, more than half of the increase in receipts from VAT, personal income tax and social contributions can be attributed to the rise in the price component. As inflation decelerates, there will be a corresponding slowdown in the nominal GDP growth and the deceleration in goods and services inflation. This would naturally slow the growth of general government revenue.

    All in all, this analysis implies that during the periods of a temporary increase in inflation fiscal policy should resist using the inflation-induced proceeds to finance permanent increases in spending. In the near future, inflation could show persistence and respond more slowly to changing trends in import and producer prices (compared to the upswing) since not all of the increased costs were fully passed through to consumer prices by the middle of 2023. In the longer term, inflation prospects in Lithuania will depend not only on economic policy but also future changes in the energy sector and climate-related developments and their impact, as well as the ability to adapt to those shifts.

    Keywords: inflation, convergence, price level, supply shock

    JEL Codes: C25, E61, G18, G21, G51

    The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Bank of Lithuania.

No 35

A picture of investment in Lithuania

  • Abstract

    This article analyses Lithuania’s investment environment by reviewing investment structure and its changes, assessing the impact of Lithuania’s economic structure on investment performance, revealing the main drivers behind Lithuania’s investment development, showing the interaction between government and business investment and assessing the impact of foreign capital on the country’s economic development. The article shows that the investment to value added ratio in Lithuania is lower than the EU average, which may be partially related to low investment intensity of the main economic activities. It has been identified that the main drivers of investment development in Lithuania are demand variables, such as foreign demand and private consumption. The analysis of government investment revealed that this investment seems to “crowd in” business investment rather than crowding it out. Lithuania’s public infrastructure level is close to the indicator of developed countries, therefore, new investment should be mainly focused on the maintenance of the current infrastructure. In terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), Lithuania is lagging behind other Central and Eastern European countries. The reserves of qualified labour, which made the largest contribution to the attraction of FDI, may be depleted in the medium- or long-term period. The potential for foreign capital inflows could be boosted by the regionalisation processes and value chain shortening highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis as well as by larger-scale digitalisation and automation. The article analyses investment dynamics in Lithuania and reflects its current state, while its future will depend on individual actions of decision-makers and the allocation of limited public and private resources in the right direction.

    The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Bank of Lithuania.

    Available only in Lithuanian

No 31

The Challenges of Lithuania’s Economic Convergence and Labour Market

  • Abstract

    The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Bank of Lithuania.

    Available only in Lithuanian