Potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the Croatian construction market

Written by Michael Glazer, SEE Regional Advisors – EECFA Croatia

For Croatia, as for other EECFA countries, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been both a supply shock and a demand shock. And many of the elements of these shocks are the same for Croatia as for other EECFA countries. On the supply side, energy costs are rising as are the costs of construction materials and of construction finance. Supply chains and labor markets have also been disrupted. On the demand side, inflation has cut into consumers’ real disposable income, consumer confidence has been shaken as a result and finance for real estate purchases has become more expensive.

EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries, including Croatia. The current reports were issued in December 2021 and the next reports will be issued in June 2022. For orders and sample report: eecfa.com

Admittedly, these disruptions are to a significant extent a prolongation and exacerbation of existing trends. For a considerable time before the invasion, consumer and producer price levels were rising broadly, construction costs were going up faster than overall inflation and central banks were considering tightening monetary policy to get inflation under control. Bank lending criteria were also getting stricter and consumer confidence was declining. All of this had a negative effect on Croatia’s construction output, but the sector was booming, nonetheless.

That said, the invasion’s impact has by no means been just more of the same for Croatia, and indeed its specific effects may weaken certain of the country’s construction sectors, at least in the short term. One cause for concern is the sharp, invasion-caused rise in Croatian food and energy prices. These threaten to both significantly reduce consumer resources available for home purchases and to exacerbate potential homebuyers’ concerns for the future. They may also, by forcing large price rises that in turn diminish demand, reduce industrial output, at least to an extent.

Mrtvi kanal, Rijeka, Croatia. Photo by Danijel Durkovic on unsplash.com

Also, Croatia’s tourism industry, which contributes as much as 20% of its GDP and is a major driver of its hotel, residential and commercial construction, is extremely sensitive to geopolitical developments, especially those in Europe. For example, in late 2021 and very early 2022, Croatia benefited greatly from Russian vaccine tourism, as Russians sought vaccines other their domestic Sputnik, both because Sputnik wasn’t very good and because, for that reason, European Union countries wouldn’t accept it. Now, though, the invasion has shut off even the normal flow of Russian and Ukrainian tourists and will continue to do so for this summer and fall at the least.

The uncertainty that the invasion has created in the minds of potential EU visitors as to future energy costs, and so as to their disposable income, may also damage Croatia’s tourism season this year. Or benefit it if as a result of these uncertainties EU tourists opt for cheaper, closer to home, holidays. Either way, Croatian construction output will likely be significantly affected as hotels change their capital spending plans to adapt, builders of coastal dwellings respond to alterations in demand and Zagreb construction residential and office developers adjust their products and their output levels to reflect buyer interest.

One sector that the invasion has not had a significant effect on is civil engineering. Work on, for example, Croatia’s large rail projects continues as before. The same holds true for industrial construction and to a large extent warehousing and storage, the former because the invasion has not changed the medium-term supply/demand calculus for those building such projects, the latter because even if one of the main drivers for such projects, consumer Internet purchasing, is uncertain in the short term, it will clearly rise substantially in the near future.

In the medium term, Croatian civil engineering may actually benefit from an invasion-induced turn to sources other than Russia to satisfy the EU’s need for gas. Such a shift would likely mean that the storage capacity of Croatia’s Krk Island LNG terminal would be increased, and pipelines built to enable the terminal to furnish more gas to more countries.

Potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the Turkish construction market

Written by Prof. Ali Turel, Cankaya University, EECFA Turkey

Compared to neighbouring countries to Ukraine, Turkey has been relatively less affected by the human consequences of this war. The number of refugees coming from Ukraine, disclosed by the Minister of Interior of Turkey on 21 March, accounts for 58 thousand, a much smaller figure than the at least 5 million refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who escaped from armed conflicts or wars in their countries and are still in Turkey.

The direct effects of the war in Ukraine on the construction output of Turkey may not be determined yet, because construction statistics are made available by the Turkish Institute of Statistics in 2-3 months from the end of the coverage period of statistics. Indirect effects, however, are mixed with macroeconomic problems that have been in place since November 2021; the most notable one being the falling exchange rate of the Turkish Lira against foreign currencies, leading to high inflation. The annual rate of inflation according to the Consumer Price Index was 19,89% at end October 2021 and grew to 48,69% by the end of January 2022 and further rose to 61,14% two months later. The yearly rate of change in Domestic Producer Price Index was already 46,31% at end October 2021, and with steeper rises, it went up to 93,53% and to 114,97% by the end of January and March 2022, respectively. Rises in petrol and natural gas prices in international markets connected to the war in Ukraine should be an important contributing factor to further increases in inflation.  

Cappadoccia, Turkey. Photo by Afdhallul Ziqri on unsplash.com

Construction cost is primarily affected by the rates of change in Domestic Producer Price Index in Turkey. The annual rate of change in the Construction Cost Index was 41,93% in October 2021 and rose sharply to 79,91% at the end of January 2022, which is the latest available statistic in construction cost. Housing Price Index had a similar trend to Construction Cost Index as the annual housing price growth was 77,4% in nominal, 21,2% in real prices by the end of January 2022. Since wage increases are indexed with the Consumer Price Index in Turkey, the 21,2% real rise in housing prices should be an indication of the lower affordability of housing.

Russia and Ukraine are important trade partners to Turkey. The value of trade with Russia increased by 25,3% and the one with Ukraine by 63,8% in February 2022 from the same month of 2021. The war could cause disruption in the movement of goods, particularly between Turkey and Ukraine. We will be able to know its effects when statistics on international trade are published for March and the following months of 2022.

EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries, including Turkey. The current reports were issued in December 2021 and the next reports will be issued in June 2022. For orders and sample report: eecfa.com

Potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the Romanian construction market

Written by Dr. Sebastian Sipos-Gug – Ebuild srl, EECFA Romania

Construction in Romania is not directly impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, however, there are several issues that would be indirectly made worse by it: construction costs, interest rates and inflation.

Construction costs already grew at a fast rate in 2021 (+25% yearly average over 2020), and even more so in early 2022, with January seeing a 41% increase in costs compared to January 2021. In these circumstances, an increase in energy costs and base materials due to both import difficulties and increases in global prices would lead to even higher costs and discourage investment in new construction. The Romanian economy is not strongly connected to that of Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, with imports from all three countries totaling at less than 5% of all imports into Romania in 2019 and exports to them totaling less than 2.5% of all exports in 2019 (last year unaffected by the pandemic, source: NSI). However, there are some segments where trade intensity is much higher: energy and ores. In 2019, 37% of all mineral fuels and oils and 40% of ores came from one of the three countries. Thus, trade difficulties would negatively impact the availability of fuel and materials and, thus, the price of construction.

Brasov, Romania, 3 March, 2022. Photo by Traian Titilincu on unsplash.com

While construction costs impact supply, the other two issues (interest rates and inflation) work together to negatively impact demand. The National Bank of Romania increased the reference rates to 3%: the 5th raise since September 2021. This will have a knock-on effect on the costs of consumer and new mortgage loans, making them more expensive, at a time when the residential real estate prices are highest since 2008 with asking prices for apartments up 20% in March 2022, compared to the same month of 2021 (source: imobiliare.ro). Coupled with record levels of inflation, especially related to fuel, heating and food, this would make financing new home purchases exceedingly difficult, and will push demand down.

Although the non-residential construction market, thanks to the easing of restrictions, was on recovery track, all the previously mentioned factors would hinder recovery. Additionally, the subsector would also have some specific challenges such as global supply chain disruptions due to sanctions, rising energy and transport costs at a time when there is a moderate worker shortage and increased pressure from employees for more remote work options.

When it comes to civil engineering, demand for construction remains high, but the ability of the government to deliver on that demand will be hindered by reductions in the available budget for investment. Increased construction costs make public investment more difficult. The increasing current account deficit, the need for subsidies to counter the effects of inflation and energy costs on the most vulnerable citizens and increased defense spending (to 2.5% of GDP in 2023, from 2% in 2022) are all eroding the public funding available for construction of civil engineering projects. The saving grace of the segment will be the availability of EU funding, however even that will be made less effective by the increases in costs. 

Potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the Slovenian construction market

Written by Dr. Ales Pustovrh – Bogatin, EECFA Slovenia

The impact assessment of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Slovenian construction market must take into account the current volatile situation associated with the pandemic. Even before the war in Ukraine started, building material manufacturers reduced their capacity, either due to logistics problems resulting from the global closure of countries, or due to declining demand. As the last wave of the pandemic ended, supply failed to keep up with increased demand and construction material prices began to rise. According to statistics, building material prices in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020 rose by a fifth. The implicit deflator of the value of construction put in place (which measures prices in construction) exceeded 14%, the highest in 20 years. Additionally, rising energy prices – electricity, gas and other fuels – contributed most to the overall construction cost increase. At end February 2022, annual inflation rate in Slovenia was 7%.

Bled, Slovenia. Photo by Florian van Duyn

Despite high inflation, construction output in Slovenia has increased. Following a gradual decline in construction activity in 2021, the value of construction works rose again in the beginning of 2022. Construction companies performed 5,8% less construction work in 2021, mainly due to a decrease in the number of projects in non-residential buildings. Yet, non-residential grew most among all construction subsectors in January 2022. High activity was also recorded in housing construction at the end of 2021 and in early 2022. Residential construction output remains high, but is still lagging behind demand for housing, resulting in a fast increase in prices for residential real estate. In nominal terms, prices at end 2021 were 26% higher than the 2008 average. In the housing market, the growth of residential real estate prices in the last quarter of 2021 accelerated further. Construction output has also increased in the civil engineering sector, backed by public investment. The state is investing in the construction of the second track to Port Koper, the third development axis in road connection, the modernization of railways, the renovation of state roads and cycle paths, the construction and renovation of the electricity network; and there are large investments in water supply infrastructure. The state is also planning to invest in healthcare. As 2022 is an election year, an increase in public expenditure was expected, but its growth has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

Construction activity in 2022 and beyond will be highly dependent on the development of events related to the war in Ukraine. The direct dependence of the Slovenian economy on the Russian and Ukrainian markets is relatively small, but this conflict can have a strong impact on inflation in Slovenia, the global financial markets, trust, and supply chain operations. The Russo-Ukrainian war will continue to raise commodity prices, too. Not only iron will rise in price, but also nickel and aluminium whose price has jumped to a new record. The prices of oil and natural gas are also rising, which will also raise the price of cement. Ukraine was a major exporter of clay to produce ceramic tiles, so we can expect that the price of tiles will hike due to the lack of clay and rising energy prices. Construction companies want to pass on such increases to public contracting authorities (built-in inflation), but they have only been partially successful so far. In the coming months, the measures taken by the Slovenian government will reduce energy prices, so it is projected that prices will no longer exceed the February level, but they will not decrease either. The rise in prices in construction is also affected by the lack of workers. There is still a large surplus of demand in the labour market over the supply of skilled workers in the industry.

War impact on EECFA construction markets – framework of thinking

by János Gáspár, head of research, EECFA Central

I see the current situation now as a combined supply-demand shock for the region’s construction market. This could be true to each EECFA country, but UA and RU are not in the position to be discussed right now. So, this is my framework of thinking:

  • Supply side shock (on product market) causes cost increase
    • supply chain issues for UA, RU (and China) construction materials (sanctions, war, transit problems)
    • energy, fuel price hike
    • FX rate
Combined supply and demand shock
  • Demand side shock causes delayed / cancelled construction investment
    • decreasing real income
    • tightening monetary conditions
    • decreasing confidence
    • decreasing corporate profitability
    • uncertainty
    • high geopolitical risk
    • new pressures on budgets (refugees, energy, fuel price compensation)

The negative demand shock could be counterbalanced in some segments of construction in mid-term if business operations (services or production) have to be relocated from UA and RU. These could affect industrial building and warehouse, and office segments positively.

Besides, new demands could arrive for strengthening the defense industry, and investments aiming energy-security and energy-efficiency could also be prioritized and supported by policy measures. These could affect industrial buildings, energy production and transmission, and residential renovation segments positively.

And these factors can be considered for understanding country-specific impacts:

  • exposure to trade with UA and RU (general, construction materials)
  • exposure to RU energy
  • exposure to war
  • exposure to RU financing
  • exposure to financial shocks (banking system, monetary policy regimes)
  • non-EU members relations with Russia
  • current cyclical position of a given construction market

The (fiscal and monetary) policy responses to these shocks will set the final picture.

2021 saw an expanding value of started construction works in Hungary

Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Q4 2021

2021 as a whole saw expansion in the Hungarian construction industry. Compared to 2020 and 2019, the total value of started construction works also rose. Last year, the Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report reached a total of more than HUF 2,500 billion, an increase of almost 18% against 2020 and of more than 6% against 2019. It is true, however, that last year’s growth was mainly due to the outstanding numbers in Q2 as Q4 brought a particularly low Activity Start. It was in 2016 last when there were 3 months with lower value of construction works started.

Photo by Hajnalka Hurta

EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary analyses the construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works and the value of projects completed in each quarter in aggregate and by segment as well. Prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database). The EBI Construction Activity Report Q4 2021 has been released and can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

Building construction: drop at end 2021, but still a record-setter

Q4 2021 registered a weaker Activity Start in building construction works, mainly owing to the loss of momentum in non-residential building works. Overall, however, the lower numbers of H2 were offset by the higher values of H1, particularly in Q2. Thus, thanks to a successful first half of the year, building construction works have never started at such a high value as in 2021. As per the latest EBI Construction Activity Report, the value of construction works started last year reached more than HUF 1,800 billion with the growth over 2020 being close to 30%, and the growth over 2019 being more than 20%.

The Activity Start of multi-unit housing constructions saw an increase in Q3 and Q4 2021. In the full year of 2021, despite a weak Q4, the value of non-residential construction works set a record; such a high value of construction works has not yet started in the subsector. The Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report amounted to more than HUF 1,500 billion in total, an increase of about 27% over both 2020 and 2019.

In Q4 2021, the biggest building construction projects entering construction phase comprised Alba Arena sports hall (Székesfehérvár), Chervon Auto automotive metal parts plant (Miskolc), Jedlik Ányos Grammar School (District 21, Budapest) and the Innovative Technical School and Grammar School (Biatorbágy).

Civil engineering: not the top performer of 2021

Since 2016 civil engineering works had not commenced at such a low value as they did in 2021. The Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report was slightly more than HUF 700 billion, meaning a further decline of 5% over the weak year of 2020, and a falloff of more than 18% over 2019. The Activity Start of road and railway construction works showed a 6% rise compared to 2020 due to the low base; but compared to 2019 the drop was close to 15%. In other than road and railway civil engineering works, the decline was almost 14% in 2021 against 2020, while the value of started construction works fell by 22% against 2019.

Among the biggest civil engineering projects that began in Q4 2021 were the railway section between Szeged-Transfer Station and Röszke, the Halimba-Szőc Solar Park, and the construction of the irrigation plant and irrigation system in Mezőhegyes.

Dropping share of Central Hungary

Q4 2021 saw a further drop in the share of Central Hungary in terms of started construction works. For the whole year, 34% of the value of construction works started in the region; lower than in 2014-2020 (38%).

The share of Eastern Hungary in Activity Start also lagged behind that of previous years, while that of Western Hungary went up to 35% from the previous 28%, according to the latest EBI Construction Activity Report.

Last year, after Budapest, the highest value of construction works started in Central Transdanubia.

Multi-unit housing construction getting off

Thanks to the favourable VAT rate, there was an increase in the value of started multi-unit construction works in 2021. A bit more than HUF 300 billion worth of construction works commenced in the segment, an increase of more than 40% over 2020 in the Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report. But the numbers were almost 4% lower than in 2019. Compared to 2018 and 2017, the difference was even more striking: more than 30%. The growth that started in Q3 and Q4 2021 is set to continue in 2022 with developers earlier this year announcing the launch of several major projects, as well as higher building permit numbers last year.

The biggest projects launched in Q4 2021 included several multi-unit housing projects in Budapest such as Phase I of New Palace, Ferdinand Garden, Balance Garden, Metrodom River building B and Westside Garden.

Even though the total value of projects completed in 2021 did not reach the 2020 level, it remained high. HUF 300 billion worth of multi-unit homes were completed in 2021, which, after 2020, was the second highest Activity Completion registered ever. According to preliminary data, 2022 is expected to set a record for completion again if projects planned for this year do reach completion.

Various parts of Hungary did not have the same share last year in the increase of multi-unit housing construction. A Bigger Activity Start was registered in Budapest, which dropped least in 2020, as well as Pest County and the Southern Great Plain region (starting from a low base due to the large drop). Overall, Central Hungary had a much higher share of the value of started multi-unit home construction works in 2021, more than 70%, compared to the average of 60% in previous years. The share of Eastern and Western Hungary in 2021 lagged behind their share in the period between 2014 and 2020.

Northern Great Plain

Compared to pre-2017, construction works in the Northern Great Plain region in recent years have been starting at a much higher value. 2017 and 2018 saw an exceptionally high construction Activity Start, but it also stayed high in 2019 and 2020. Although in 2021 started construction works had a lower value than in 2020, the Activity Start indicator still surpassed the 2019 level, and was much higher than pre-2017.

Even though the Activity Start of multi-unit housing construction somewhat grew in the region in 2021 over 2020, it still lags far behind the figures of 2016-2019; for instance, by more than 30% over 2019. Between 2016 and 2019, works began on larger projects in the region such as Phases 2 and 4 of Paris Courtyard (Párizsi udvar) or Ispotály residential park (both in Debrecen) and János-hegy residential park (in Nyíregyháza). Despite the low numbers in 2021, larger multi-unit residential projects were also launched in the region like the Debrecen project (in Hajdúböszörmény) or Phase 1 of Platanus residential park (in Debrecen).

Based on data available for the first 9 months of 2021, 2022 might see a further major expansion in the Activity Start of the region. The number of permitted homes hiked between January and September last year and 90% more permits were issued in the region than in the same period of 2020. For comparison, the country-wide growth was only 30% between the two periods.

The value of non-residential construction works launched in the Northern Great Plain region increased greatly by 2021, and even exceeded the highest value of 2018. Thus, overall, the Activity Start of building construction reached a record high in the region in 2021. For example, construction started on the East-West Gate intermodal logistics centre (Fényeslitke), on Phase 3 of Lego injection moulding plant and on Phase 3 of the packaging plant and warehouse (both in Nyíregyháza). Last year also saw the start of construction works on Semcorp foil production plant (Debrecen) and on Tiszakavics Hotel (Szolnok). The growth is striking despite that the construction of the BMW plant did not eventually start last year. And Activity Strat is expected to remain high this year as rumour has it that the first building works at the BMW plant (central office building and training centre) could begin in 2022.

In recent years works on road M4 and projects related to the BMW project fuelled the Activity Start of civil engineering in the region (for the latter, for example, Phases I and II of the North-West Economic Zone infrastructure development and Phase 1 of the Debrecen-Füzesabony railway section started). But last year the value of started civil engineering works sank massively in the Northern Great Plain and it had not been so low since 2015. Biggest projects in 2021 included the civil engineering works of the above-mentioned East-West Gate intermodal logistics centre and the City Stadium project in Nyíregyháza.

Original article in Hungarian: Tünde Tancsics, ELTINGA

English version: Eszter Falucskai, BUILDECON

How will Romania’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan impact the construction sector?

Written by Dr. Sebastian Sipos-Gug – Ebuild srl, EECFA Romania

The Romanian construction is poised to grow in both 2022 and 2023. The main drivers of growth vary, including low interest rates and excess liquidity that boost the residential subsector or the use of EU 2014-2020 cohesion funds to help boost civil engineering.  At the same time, the pandemic and the responses to it negatively impact construction, mainly in terms of hotel and restaurant construction, but also when it comes to office buildings. The EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is another potential source of funding that could help counter these negative effects and maintain Romania’s construction sector on a positive growth rate for the near future.

Detailed construction forecast up to 2023 for Romania is available in the latest EECFA Construction Forecast Report that can be purchased on eecfa.com.

What is the PNRR?

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) contains the projects and measures Romania aims to implement in order to benefit from the EU’s Recovery and Resiliency Facility (RRF). The RRF is a temporary instrument used as a means to mitigate some of the pandemic’s effects on the members’ economies and has a total funding budget of EUR 723.8bln (out of which EUR 29.2bln are available for Romania).

The RRF sets minimum targets for climate spending (37%) and digital spending (20%), which Romania has pledged to exceed (41% and 21%, respectively). Romania’s Recovery and Resilience Plan includes 171 measures (out of which 107 are investments) and has six pillars, mirroring those of the RRF.

How do the RRF and PNRR work?

Out of the total amount, Romania can receive EUR 14.2bln in grants and EUR 14.9bln in loans (this is 13.09% of 2019’s GDP). A pre-financing payment of 13% of each financing source has been granted to Romania, with the remainder of the loans and grants arriving in up to 10 installments, which are themselves conditioned on the achievement of the milestones agreed with the EU in the PNRR. These milestones include several legal, policy and administrative reforms, as well as the completion of investments on time. Thus, the amounts received could be delayed or even rejected if Romania fails to achieve its milestones and targets.

How will this impact the construction segments?

Residential construction

The PNRR has provisions for both new construction and renovation of dwellings. In terms of renovations, the plan has EUR 1bln allotted for improving the energy efficiency of around 4.3mln sqm of residential stock. To put this into context, in 2019, the entire residential renovation market in Romania totaled EUR 800mln (source: NSI). This measure has a deadline of June 2026, and the first step is for the Romanian Government to create a national support scheme (by March 2022) and the local authorities will award the actual contracts.

Regarding new construction, 4418 new units will be built for the housing of young people from vulnerable communities and 1104 new units for teachers and healthcare professionals in areas where access to these services is lacking, such as villages and small towns. The assignment of contracts will again be tasked to local authorities, according to a grant scheme built on national level. The program has a deadline of 2022 for the assignment of contracts and 2026 for the actual construction. The impact of this measure on the construction segment would be rather small, since, for comparison, in 2019 there were 67488 new residential units constructed across the country (source: NSI).

Non-residential construction

The PNRR should impact several types of non-residential construction, but mainly healthcare, education and public buildings.

In terms of healthcare, there are several investments planned:

  • Renovation of at least 3000 family doctors’ practices by the end of 2023.
  • 124 additional neonatal intensive care beds would be made available through the modernization/extension of 25 intensive care units, by the end of 2024
  • 30 outpatient care units would be built or renovated, also by 2024.
  • 200 community centers would be built or renovated by mid-2025.
  • And finally, by mid-2026, 25 new hospitals would be partially financed by the program with a focus on the energy efficiency of buildings. This would also cover the required medical equipment.

When it comes to education, there are also several projects planned, including:

  • 110 new childcare facilities (EUR 230mln),
  • 10 mixed integrated vocational campuses (EUR 338mln),
  • 300 000sqm of educational spaces to be renovated, another 46 400sqm built with a “green” focus and 3 200 electric school minibuses to be purchased (EUR 425mln),
  • construction and modernization of 19520 reading places, 6625 canteens and 19130 student housing places for universities (EUR 260mln),
  • Additionally, 75 000 classrooms and 10 000 labs would be re-equipped across the country (EUR 600mln).

The total budget of these investments in healthcare and education exceeds EUR 4bln if we include the equipment. For comparison, the total expenditure for the construction of healthcare, education and recreational buildings in 2019 was EUR 284mln (source: NSI) so the impact of the PNRR here could be rather large. The renovation of public buildings is also included in the plan with a target of 2.3mln sqm to be renovated with a focus on improving energy efficiency on a total budget of EUR 1170mln and another 1.3mln sqm for moderate renovation (EUR 575mln). For comparison, in 2019 the entire administrative building segment saw less than EUR 266mln invested in renovation (source: NSI), so here, again, PNRR could help grow the construction segment.

Civil engineering

PNRR targets several civil engineering segments as well, with a focus on public utilities, transportation and energy.

In terms of public utilities, the water network would be expanded with 1600km and sewers with 2900km until mid-2026 on EUR 800mln. For reference, in 2020, compared to the previous year, the networks increased with 1500km and 1898km, respectively, so this would in effect be comparable to the current yearly output in this segment. Another focal point is waste management with EUR 1239mln allotted for various investments in waste collection, monitoring and recycling. 

Sustainable transportation takes up more than 1/4 of the total PNRR budget, with an EUR 7.62mln allocation. This would include:

  • EUR 3.480bln for railroad infrastructure – 2426km of rail renewals, 315km of modernized rail and 110km of electrified rail. For reference, in 2019 the value of railroad construction was EUR 185mln (source: NSI).
  • EUR 3.095bln for the construction of 429km of motorways (equivalent to the amount of new motorways completed between 2012 and 2020). The program will finance several segments on the A1, A3, A7 and A8 Motorways. For comparison, in 2019, EUR 227mln were spent on motorway construction (source: NSI).
  • EUR 600mln for the metro networks in Bucharest (5.2km) and Cluj Napoca (7.5km).
  • EUR 620mln for green transport infrastructure – electric vehicle charging stations (52) and urban bicycle lanes (1091km).

When it comes to energy, the focus is of course on renewable and green initiatives:

  • EUR 460mln for 3000MW of new wind and solar plants and developing battery storage facilities (480MWh). For comparison, the net generating capacity for wind and solar power across Romania in 2021 was 4273MW (source: Transelectrica), so this program would significantly increase production capacities.
  • EUR 515mln for renewable gas transportation, green hydrogen production and energy storage using hydrogen (1870km distribution pipeline).
  • EUR 300mln for methane production for electrical and central heating (1300MW).
  • EUR 280mln for battery and photovoltaic panel production and recycling (2GW worth of batteries /year).


The PNRR’s impact would be maximized by reaching the appropriate milestones and targets on time, and by using this program together with other financing sources, like the national budget or other sources of EU funding.

Thus, if implemented fully, it could have a positive impact across the entire construction sector, from residential and non-residential renovation, to road, railroad and energy related construction.

EECFA 2021 Winter Construction Forecast – 4th pandemic edition

EECFA’s 2021 Winter Construction Forecast Report was released on 6 December. Full reports can be purchased, and a sample report can be viewed here: www.eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

We are more optimistic for 2022 in the Southeast European region of EECFA than in the previous forecast round. The drop in 2023 is caused by Bulgaria; the awaited shrinkage is so sizeable there that expansion elsewhere in the region might not counterbalance it. Expansion in the East European region of EECFA is foreseen to be smaller both in 2022 and in 2023 than in the previous forecast round. Growth in Turkey was revised downward.

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The largest Southeast European construction market of EECFA, Romania, is expected to see only moderate growth on the horizon. Serbia, having recorded the biggest expansion of almost 100% in the 2014-2020 period, is foreseen to plateau in the upcoming years. In Eastern Europe, in Turkey we maintain to believe that the recovery could start, but we lowered our growth expectation compared to our previous forecast. After 2 years of no-growth, Russia’s construction market is foreseen to expand gradually until 2023.

Bulgaria. The Bulgarian economy is recovering more slowly than expected, and the likely growth rate is 3.8% in 2021. However, residential construction looks strong thanks to low interest rates on housing loans, making home purchase more affordable. Real estate is also the safest and easiest way for those wanting to invest to avoid negative deposit rates. The pandemic and its lasting follow-up effects played an additionally strong cooling effect on non-residential construction because of a surge in office and industrial construction earlier and with an emptying pipeline. Zero progress on big-league infrastructure projects will take its toll on growth in civil engineering construction in 2021, but it is set to catch up in 2022. Total construction output in Bulgaria is anticipated to grow by 6.5% in 2021 and 16.5% in 2022. The lack of preparation for the new programming period 2021-2027 and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan are to negatively affect total construction output which is expected to drop by 24.9% in 2023.

Croatia. Croatia’s tourism season surpassed all expectations, driving a 16.2 percentage point swing in the country’s GDP growth, from -8.1% in 2020 to +8.1% this year, and a one-notch jump in its Fitch rating, to BBB. The near-term future of Croatia’s construction sector now depends greatly on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its effect on tourism. EU and international financial institution crisis-relief funding will, though, soften any blow that the disease delivers. The City of Zagreb’s budget crisis, bureaucratic delays in spending crisis-relief money and much higher construction costs are other negative factors that will affect the growth of construction output, which must be assessed not for the sector as a whole, but segment by segment (e.g., hotels vs. residential).

Romania. The economy is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, in terms of GDP, by the end of 2021, after growing 7% in real terms. The European Commission forecasts Romania’s GDP growth rate to stay above the EU average in both 2022 (5.1%) and 2023 (5.2%), and, with the help of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), construction would have a positive ground to grow upon. Total construction output in 2021 is predicted to slightly decline (-0.3%), but to recover and grow in 2022 and 2023. Low interest rates and excess liquidity coalesce into an expanding residential subsector, while non-residential construction continues to be impeded by pandemic-related changes to work habits and various restrictions. On the back of the RRF and the 2014-2020 EU cohesion funds, and despite ongoing difficulties and delays in implementing projects, civil engineering construction continues to have a high potential for growth.

Serbia. After the restrictions in 2020, economic recovery came faster than expected and GDP growth is estimated to reach at least 7.3% in 2021. This strong rebound is supported by accelerated construction activity and increased capital investments, where a high single-digit expansion is projected in 2021 outputs. Construction output is fuelled by civil engineering projects, but also the robust residential and industrial related constructions. Furthermore, budgetary expenditures for investments are planned to reach record levels, with 7.5% of GDP dedicated for this purpose in 2022. All indicators are pointing towards more extensive growth and sustained construction activity at record levels in this forecast horizon.

Slovenia. The Slovenian economy has rebounded stronger than expected after the pandemic. One of the strongest economic growth accelerators was gross fixed capital investment, causing construction output to get back on feet. Total construction output is projected to exceed EUR 4bln sooner than previously predicted – already in 2022 – and reach EUR 4,3bln in 2023. Construction cost growth will probably slow down from a hike in 2021, resulting in a more stable construction environment without supply shocks. This will enable several big civil engineering projects to continue apace, but the main contributor to construction output will be new residential projects. Of course, our forecasts remain contingent on the condition that no further lockdowns hinder the overall economic activity.

Russia. The construction industry in Russia is going through the second year of the pandemic relatively successfully, and the previously expected stagnation in 2021 is likely to turn into a 3.2% growth by the end of the year. This unexpectedly good result was enabled by segments with traditionally active government participation: residential and civil engineering which were supported by large funds. The non-residential subsector also contributed to the growth of the construction market in 2021, mainly due to the massive completion of objects whose construction was previously postponed from 2020. But because all these factors are temporary, construction market growth in 2022 and 2023 will lessen and is prognosticated to post +1.9% and +1.2% per year, respectively, as a part of the potential for the positive dynamics was already exhausted in 2021.

Turkey. The Turkish economy started to regain senses from the pandemic blow in Q3 2020, which continued with high GDP growth in Q2 2021. Although Turkey removed most COVID-19 related restrictions on 1 June 2020 with the elevated number of vaccinations, now, like across Europe, the fourth wave of the pandemic has started (yet with relatively fewer new cases). The estimated economic growth rate by end 2021 is about 10%, but the primary concern in recent months has been high inflation caused by the national currency’s devaluation. Building starts expanded greatly, but completions registered a small drop in the first 9 months of 2021. The government requires interest rates (also for mortgages) to be kept at less than half of the rate of rise in building construction cost. Keeping real incomes positive during high inflation times is important for demand for commodities like housing and other real estates. Turkey’s total construction output is prognosticated to be positive in the forecast horizon with an average growth of 2.6% up to 2023.

Ukraine. For the construction sector in Ukraine, 2021 marks the year of completion of the construction regulation reform launched back in 2019. In mid-September, the newly created State Inspectorate for Architecture and Urban Planning began to work as a full-fledged new body with its own structure, powers, and new work principles. Ukraine’s construction market in H2 2021 has showed a good recovery in investment activity and the resumption of construction. The residential subsector remains the driver of the construction sector due to stable demand from the population. The main constraint in the development of the construction market in 2021 has been increased construction costs despite the active implementation of residential projects against the backdrop of the revival of mortgage lending, increased demand from the manufacturing sector, as well as high volumes of financing.

Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary Q3 2021

After a significant expansion in Q2, the value of started construction works in the Hungarian construction industry marked a major drop between July and September. Yet overall, the Activity Start indicator remained high for Q3 due to the exceptionally good Q2.

Based on the projects listed in iBuild construction project information and company database, a total of more than HUF 2 billion worth of construction works started in the sector. The Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report for the first 9 months of the year exceeded not only 2020, but also 2019, the former by 24% and the latter by 4%.

EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary analyses the construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works, and the value of projects completed in each quarter in aggregate and by segment as well. Prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database), it can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

Smaller-scale building construction activity in July-September 2021

Similarly to the construction industry as a whole, building construction registered a weaker Q3. The Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report was below the level of the first two quarters, but construction works in the sector started in a higher value than in the corresponding period of 2020. Thanks to the successful H1, in the first 9 months of the year the value of the Activity Start indicator was close to HUF 1,500 billion, marking a 24% increase like-for-like and also significantly higher than in the same period of previous years.

Multi-unit and non-residential also recorded a feeble Q3. However, in the latter, the value of started construction works in January-September exceeded the one in 2020 (by 31%) and the one in 2019 (by 36%) thanks to the high Activity Start of Q2 2021.

In Q3 2021 projects entering construction phase included the renovation of the new North Buda Unified Hospitals. In addition to the construction of several office buildings and industrial warehouses which will be described in detail later, the construction of Hotel Aria Residences and of the Szekszárd Knowledge Center also started.

In the multi-unit housing segment, after the weak Q2, Q3 saw an even lower Activity Start. The value of launched construction works in the first 9 months was only 14% more than in the same period of the already poor 2020, and well below the level of previous years.

Frailing civil engineering in Q3 2021

Civil engineering also posted a reduction in Q3 2021. The Q3 2021 EBI Construction Activity Report has found that following an outstanding Q2, a rather low value of construction works started in the subsector. This was also true to road, railway, as well as non-road and non-railway segments. In the first 9 months, the Activity Start indicator of Civil Engineering exceeded the like-for-like indicator of 2020 (+15%), but it was much lower than in previous years.

The biggest launched civil engineering projects were the construction of the Sajószentpéter-Berente bypass on main road 260 and the works of the Gesztely-Szerencs stretch on main road 37.

Started construction works more evenly balanced regionally

In Q3 2021, the biggest share of construction works started in the eastern regions, but overall, in the first 9 months of the year the western regions had the largest proportion of the total value of started construction works which exceeded the value of previous years.

On the whole, East Hungary registered the fewest started construction works in January-September, in spite of the growth in Q3.

Multi-unit housing construction works slow to kick off

Despite the drop of VAT rate on new homes down to 5% from 1 January 2021 (from 27% in 2020), there is no visible growth in multi-unit housing construction. In Q2 fewer multi-unit construction projects started than in Q1 and Q3 also saw a further decline. Yet due to the better Q1, the value of Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report for multi-unit housing construction in the first 9 months of 2021 was still 14% higher than in the same period of 2020.

Despite the VAT reduction, multi-unit home constructions are slow to start. According to the housing permit statistics of the CSO, ‘simple declarations to build a home’ played the main role in the growing number of permits this year. This may be due to the fact that since last fall’s announcement to lower the VAT, developers haven’t had the time to prepare for large-scale projects and permits have not yet been obtained (which is the prerequisite to start construction works). But overall, as a result of the VAT reduction, we still expect the Activity Start of multi-unit housing construction to pick up in the future, especially because the recently launched ‘green loan’ might also boost demand for new homes.

Between July and September the value of completed multi-unit projects was roughly at the level of Q2, falling short of previous expectations due to delays. In the first 9 months of the year, a total of HUF 208 billion worth of multi-unit housing projects reached completion.

Like in the first half of the year, most multi-unit construction works started in Central Hungary in the first 9 months. Although the rest of Hungary had a proportionately higher Activity Start in Q3, they still lagged behind their previous years’ share. Between January and September only 10% of construction projects started in the eastern regions and 18% of them in the western regions against the 72% share of Central Hungary.

Office projects in 2021

Compared to the sharp decline in 2020, office projects have accelerated in 2021. The Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report for the first 9 months of the year surpassed the total annual value of the record year of 2018.

The reconstruction works of the former Joseph Archduke’s Palace, the former Red Cross Headquarters and the buildings of the Ministry of Finance and the Hungarian National Bank have started. Also, the construction works of phase 4 of Madarász Office Park, phase 1 of BakerStreet Office Building, phase 1 of Dürer Park Office Building and Richter Gedeon Headquarters have been launched.

This year there have been fewer completions. As per iBuild construction project information and company database, office construction works were completed on less than HUF 90 billion. For example, BudaPart City office building reached completion this  year and in the last quarter we might see further office building completions such as Aréna Business Campus B, Green Court Offices and OTP M12. This could greatly increase the value of this year’s Activity Completion indicator.

Warehouse projects in 2021

The construction of industrial buildings and warehouses has also been showing a strong upswing this year. The value of started works, after 2020, is hitting another record in 2021. The value of construction works started in the first 9 months of the year in the segment has already significantly exceeded last year’s total Activity Start.

This year has seen the construction start of SK Innovation battery plant in Iváncsa, Semcorp separator film production plant in Debrecen, Phase 2 of Mercedes-Benz K1 press plant in Kecskemét and East-West Gate intermodal logistics center in Fényeslitke.

Several completions have already taken place and more are expected in the last quarter, possibly making 2021 a record year for completions as well. For example, this year has seen the completion of phase 2 of SK Innovation battery factory in Komárom and the M0-M31 warehouse in Nagytarcsa. Nestlé Purina pet food plant in Bük and LIDL’s logistics center in Ecser are also set to be completed yet this year.

Croatia’s economic recovery and construction boom: real or smoke and mirrors?

Written by Michael Glazer (SEE Regional Advisors) and Tatjana Halapija (Nada Projekt), EECFA’s Croatia members

Croatia’s remarkable recovery from the brutal impact that the COVID-19 epidemic had on the country in 2020 is, like its construction boom, both real and smoke and mirrors, both temporary and long-term.

Photo by Tatjana Halapija

The country’s tourism sector, brought low by COVID-19 in 2020 (with commercial accommodation facilities recording a 64.2% reduction in arrivals and a 55.3% fall in overnights compared to 2019), has rebounded a mere year later to levels as strong as or even stronger than the 2019 banner year for the sector. August 2021 overnights, for example, achieved 93% of 2019 levels and fiscalized receipts (a proxy for revenues) were 21% higher than those of August 2019. This rebound is crucially important to Croatia, since, depending on how you measure it, the tourism sector accounts for 18% or more of the country’s economy.

Dubrovnik – Photo by Zoran Jelaca

First, though, the smoke and mirrors part: a large, but hard to determine, portion of the apparent tourism recovery is due to the government’s requiring that guests staying in Croatia be registered with governmental authorities. In fact, a registration requirement has existed for many years, but Croatian lessors of rooms for short-term occupancy, which constitute the majority of the country’s tourism beds, have long ignored it in order to evade taxes. The difference is that for COVID-19-related reasons the government is finally enforcing the requirement. The upshot has been that many more guests have been registered in the COVID-19 era than would have been previously.

The reality, though, is also encouraging. It is clear that significantly more tourists have visited Croatia this year than might have been expected given the fierceness of the epidemic both in Croatia and in the countries that are the typical sources of its guests, although the exact size of this increase is hard to discern through the distorting glass of official statistics. What is certain, though, is that the surprisingly large number of tourists who actually visited Croatia and the increase in the portion of them who were registered has both leveled the playing field for large hotel chains (which have always registered their guests more or less accurately) and provided badly needed windfall revenues for the government. Regarding the latter, the budget deficit for 2021 is anticipated by the Minister of Finance to be less than 3.8% of GDP despite extensive spending on COVID-19 and earthquake relief. He expects the deficit for 2022 to fall to 3.0% of GDP.

The upshot for the Croatian construction sector is likely to be quite positive. Hotel firms are likely to loosen the reins at least somewhat on their construction activities. While this will be to an extent offset by lower construction spending by small renters of vacation homes and rooms, they, too, will have earned more this year than they expected, even taking into account that unlike prior years they will have to pay taxes on their income. And the windfall tax revenues generated by their tax payments are an unalloyed benefit for the government which will use at least some of them to pay for the new construction required to compensate for the recent earthquakes.

Zagreb – Vlaska street – Source: licegrada.hr

Other factors are less positive, making the overall construction picture in Croatia hard to read. GDP growth for 2021 is now forecast by the Croatian Minister of Finance to be greater than 8%, also unexpectedly high as the continuing increase in the forecast number over the course of the year shows (e.g., the European Commission’s July 2021 forecast was for 5.4% GDP growth in 2021, itself an increase in the EC’s prior forecasts). So, immensely positive for the construction sector.

Construction forecast for Croatia is available in the EECFA Forecast Report that can be purchased on eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

That said, inflation is high (and possibly accelerating). The annualized change in the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices was 3.5% in September (compared to 3.1% in August and 2.7% in July).

Construction costs (both supplies and labor) are nearing stratospheric levels. Regarding labor, Croatian construction firms are no longer importing workers only from Croatia’s neighbors in Southeast Europe or even from Central and Eastern Europe as a whole but are instead turning more and more to India, Nepal, the Philippines and other distant sources. This is not an option for many building supplies, of course, shortages of which are no longer just driving prices up but are now also slowing projects down. Demand and available resources differ greatly from construction sector to construction sector, so a wide variation in sectoral output is to be expected.

A number of other factors contribute to this variation, which we will analyze in detail in our upcoming Winter 2021 forecast report.

Zagreb – Photo by Ivana Nobilo