EECFA 2022 Winter Construction Forecast

EECFA’s 2022 Winter Construction Forecast Report was released on 5 December. Full reports can be purchased. Discounts and sample reports: info@eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Yet another downward revision characterizes the forecast for both regions. Southeast Europe could see shrinkage on the horizon. This, however, comes after a great period of construction in between 2016 and 2021, so the market is foreseen to come down from a peak level. In this respect, the 3% decline until 2024 is no drama, in EECFA’s view. The drama is in East Europe where the peak was reached in 2018 and the market was around 10% below that peak level even before the Ukraine war began. Since then, EECFA has paused issuing forecasts in Ukraine and a status report has been prepared. Without Ukraine, the region is expected to reach its bottom in 2023.

In Southeast Europe, almost all countries have been revised downward. Three out of them, however, could see expansion until 2024. The foreseen contraction in Romania and Serbia pulls down the region to negative. Romania is quite pessimistic; the market could shrink by almost 10% by 2024. Serbia is expected to witness a sizeable drop, too, before growth returns in 2024. As the region saw much construction in 2016-2021, the market will likely decline from the peak, making the 3% drop on the forecast horizon not-so-drastic.

Bulgaria:

  • Under the projected economic slowdown, construction will increasingly be affected by the ongoing political instability that is likely to undermine reforms within the Recovery and Resilience Plan, and delay implementation of the EU’s operational programmes.
  • Тotal construction output is estimated to have grown in 2022.
  • For 2023-2024 civil engineering is forecasted to increase at a more accelerated pace.

Croatia:

  • Residential construction output held up in 2022, impervious to war and disease. But it’s likely residential’s rapid growth will over time succumb to rising prices and a falling population.
  • Rail construction output will rise as more rail projects come online. Some new high-cost road projects may yet be undertaken for political reasons.
  • Energy prices will fuel building of oil/gas port facilities, pipelines and storage in 2022-2023, construction that the EU’s green-energy push may quench in favor of renewable energy and power grid projects.

Romania:

  • The Romanian construction market is set to shrink slightly in 2023 and 2024 as internal and external factors conspire to make building materials more costly. 
  • Inflation-induced lower purchasing power and growing mortgage interest rates are making loans more expensive, and few people can afford to buy a home in cash. 
  • On the one hand, Romania could benefit from the current global instability and attract more foreign investment to grow its economy. On the other, increased energy costs translate to higher operating and construction costs and discourage investment. 

Serbia:

  • The challenging economic situation will undoubtedly have negative effects on construction outputs. But how negative is the question of external factors and the coming events.
  • The domestic market is strong, with high public and foreign investments, as well as record employment. The highest economic risk comes from inflation and the expected recession in the EU.
  • The current economic slowdown could deepen the contraction in case of a prolonged crisis.

Slovenia:

  • Slovenia has experienced expansion in construction output on the back of the strong overall economic growth.
  • However, risks for the future include high inflation, large construction cost increases, and overheating economic growth. And increased interest rates will depress residential output in the future.
  • Supply chain constraints might jeopardize the completion of large civil engineering projects.

In East Europe, 2022 could be the 4th consecutive year of drop in Türkiye, and no quick recovery is foreseen on the horizon. We have turned somewhat optimistic in Russia, but only from 2024 on. Without Ukraine, the region will likely hit bottom in 2023. The region reached its peak in 2018 and just before the war in Ukraine started, the market was around 10% below this 2018 level. Owing to the war, Uvecon, the Ukrainian member institute of EECFA, has prepared a status report for the second time instead of the forecast report.

Russia:

  • Direct and indirect effects of sanctions hammered the construction market that declined faster in 2022 than previously expected.
  • Forced acceleration of projects in transport and energy, in response to export and import structure changes due to sanctions, will spur growth in civil engineering.
  • Many targeted programs and national projects will support the construction sector throughout the forecast horizon.

Türkiye:

  • The construction industry has been trying to deal with high inflation that has led to 120% yearly rise in construction cost and 189% increase in housing prices.
  • There has been some deficit between produced and needed home numbers since 2000, augmented by the influx of refugees from Syria and neighbouring countries (3,920 million registered; unknown unregistered).
  • The low-cost housing project of the government as of September is expected to stop the current slump in the construction sector.

Ukraine:

  • Prospects for construction depend on the existing situation on the market as a result of the destruction of residential, non-residential and engineering infrastructure, and the end of hostilities with the possible economic recovery.
  • Total area of damaged or destroyed housing is 74.1 million sqm (7.3% of the total area of Ukraine’s housing stock), a number which, unfortunately, grows every day. Restoring the housing stock will become a key issue for Ukraine after the war ends.
  • Energy infrastructure remains the top priority for recovery, as nearly 40% of the energy system has been destroyed.

What opportunities the RRF can bring to Bulgaria’s construction

Written by Anita Dangova, EPI, EECFA Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) aims to facilitate economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and to create a more sustainable, equitable, and successful economy. It includes a set of schemes not only to restore the economy’s growth potential, but to boost it, too. In achieving this, several construction projects to increase energy efficiency and decrease CO2 impact are to be implemented in 2023-2026.

The official cover of Bulgaria’s RRP; Source: National Recovery and Resilience Plan of the Republic of Bulgaria

How the RRP will impact housing construction

One of the major projects provides support for sustainable energy-efficient renovation of the housing stock since, currently, only 7% of the floor area of occupied residential buildings complies with modern energy efficiency (EE) requirements. The project, to be launched by end 2022 with an implementation period till 2026, will attract a total of EUR 607mln under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). Multi-family residential buildings will be eligible for financing nationwide and renovated units have to achieve 30% primary energy savings. Residential buildings to be financed under this scheme are divided into two groups depending on the time of application of owners’ associations: 

  • applications until March 2023: 100% of the project funding will be provided from the RRP, 
  • applications from April 2023 to December 2023: 80% of the project funding will be provided under the RRP, and 20% will be in the form of self-contribution. 

Another project with an implementation period till 2025 is dubbed “Program for the financing of single renewable energy measures in single-family and multi-family buildings”. Total planned funding is EUR 123mln (EUR 72mln from the RRP and EUR 51mln in the form of national and private co-financing). The project aims to increase the use of renewable energy in final energy consumption in households by financing new solar systems for domestic hot water and photovoltaic systems. There are two measures:

  • construction of solar systems for domestic hot water supply. The maximum amount of grant per individual household is to be 100% of the cost of the system, but no more than EUR 1000;
  • construction of photovoltaic systems up to 10 kW. The maximum amount of grant per individual household is to be up to 70% of the system cost, but no more than EUR 7700.

How non-residential construction will benefit from the RRP

One of the projects finances – between 2022 and 2026 – the sustainable energy renovation of non-residential buildings owned by municipalities and national authorities (regional administrations, ministries); the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; public-private partnerships for buildings in the field of production, trade and services; non-profit legal entities, municipal enterprises, and commercial companies. The project consists of two components: 1) EUR 189mln (without VAT) to public buildings; 2) EUR 120mln (without VAT) for manufacturing, commercial and service buildings.

Continue reading What opportunities the RRF can bring to Bulgaria’s construction

EECFA countries in the European Commission’s 2022 Macro Forecast

Prepared by Tünde Tancsics and Dóra Barát – ELTINGA-EECFA Research

Prior to the publication of our 2022 Summer EECFA Construction Forecast Report, the European Commission released its forecast for the economic prospects for EECFA countries. Here are the main changes in the prospects between Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022. And as a comparison, at the end of the post you can check how we have revised our forecast.

Economic outlook has deteriorated in almost all EECFA countries compared to autumn but remains positive in most. The only exception is Russia where the economy is expected to shrink instead of the previously anticipated growth due to the war and the related sanctions. The prolongation of the war could also lead to a further decline in the economic growth of all countries.

Link to this viz >>

Apart from Russia, the rest of the EECFA countries (plus Hungary, which is a Euroconstruct member) were expected to see high growth rates of over 3.8% in Autumn 2021. The slowdown of economic growth in Slovenia and Serbia is projected to be moderate, respective -0.5 and -0.7 percentage points in the Spring 2022 forecast for the period of 2022-2023. However, all other EECFA countries have larger projected declines in economic growth (ranging from -1.2% to -6.9%) compared to both the EU and the Eurozone. The forecasted economic growth fell most in Russia, Romania and Turkey (-6.9, -2.1 and -1.5 percentage points respectively). Russia is the only country that not only represents an economic contraction (-4.45%) but is also the only EECFA country to remain below the estimated GDP growth rate of the EU and Eurozone for Spring 2022. Thus, apart from Russia, the others still have the same or higher economic growth than the EU average.

In terms of gross fixed capital formation (investment), predicted growth has decreased in both EECFA countries and the Euroconstruct member Hungary, as well as in the EU. However, the extent of this decrease varies significantly among countries. Whilst in the EU and the Eurozone, projected GFCF growth fell moderately (-1.1% and -0.9%, respectively), all other countries are expected to see a decline of over 2 percentage points, Bulgaria excepted. This implies, for instance, stagnating GFCF in Bulgaria and a remarkably large negative growth in Russia (-11%), similar to the GDP growth indicator. There is also a notable falloff in Hungary and Romania (-4.9 and -4.6 percentage points, respectively), although the former started from an expected growth of more than 10% in autumn, while the latter from only 6%. It suggests that the estimated growth of the GFCF for 2022-2023 in Spring 2022 is just above 1% in Hungary. In other EECFA countries, the decline in GFCF growth varies between 2.2 and 3.1 percentage points.

Construction growth has been revised downward everywhere except for Bulgaria (0.4 percentage points). While in the EU and Eurozone the indicator declined by approximately 1 percentage point, in Slovenia, Romania and Hungary, construction growth is to fall by more than 5 percentage points in 2022-2023. However, growth remains positive for every country where data is available, with Bulgaria leading the prospects (6.6%).

So this above is the European Commission’s opinion. And here you can check how we, EECFA see the upcoming years for Eastern European construction markets. Croatia and Slovenia are on the top, while Russia and Serbia are on the bottom.

Link to this viz >>

Our approach is different from that of the Commission, as we provide forecast for each segment of construction. That is, we have a bottom-up approach, where forecast is computed separately for residential, office, retail, industrial buildings, roads, railways, utility etc. segments. Mail us if you are interested.

Or check our sample report and order on eecfa.com

EECFA 2022 Summer Construction Forecast – Military conflict edition

EECFA’s 2022 Summer Construction Forecast Report was released on 27 June. Full reports can be purchased. Discounts and sample reports: info@eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Our earlier optimism over the Southeast European region of EECFA has gone. The current forecast is foreshadowing almost no growth until 2023 and contraction in 2024. The main reason behind is the worsening climate for construction due to the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the Eastern European region, we have turned pessimistic. The market of Russia and Turkey together is projected to stay below its 2021 level until 2024. We haven’t been able to provide our standard forecast for Ukraine in this summer round, but a status report has been compiled. We will resume providing forecast as soon as construction-related data collection of Ukrstat returns to normal.

Link to the viz >>

Forecast for Romania, the largest Southeast European construction market, has been revised downward. Instead of expansion, shrinkage is our current scenario. Serbia, which was the fastest growing market in the past 7 years, has an even more pessimistic outlook than in the previous forecast round. In Bulgaria, a whole different trajectory of spending EU funds is the reason behind the revision. We are negative on Russia all the way over the horizon and in Turkey the start of the recovery is expected to be postponed for yet another year.

Bulgaria. Owing to several external and domestic factors, outlook for Bulgaria’s economy to grow faster in 2022 has been reduced. And this year the construction market has entered a period of increasing unpredictability and heterogeneous performance. Residential construction has benefited from favourable financing conditions, and residential property has been used as a hedge against inflation. However, this will not last forever. EECFA is not optimistic in non-residential construction, while civil engineering could expand over the forecast horizon. Total construction output is prognosticated to be in the black with low, but positive growth rates in 2022-2024.

Croatia. The picture for Croatia’s construction sector is mixed, both from sector to sector and within sectors. Sector-to-sector, the output growth rates of Croatian construction sectors are decoupling, as some come close to completing the post-transition catch-up growth phase, while others are not nearly so far along. Within sectors, the strength of crucial output drivers, e.g., tourism season results, construction cost inflation, interest rate evolution, is uncertain and very dependent on events and policymakers’ reactions to them. Overall, the picture looks bright now, especially for residential construction, but the fight against inflation or a serious new COVID-19 outbreak could darken it rapidly and considerably.

Romania. As the short-term effects of the pandemic dissipate, the economy faces new challenges such as inflation and global trade disruptions. GDP is set to grow by 2.9% in 2022, in real terms, down from the previous prediction, but by 2023 (+4.4%) and 2024 (+4.8%) growth could accelerate (source: the National Forecasting Commission). Construction showed signs of recovery, so total construction output is to nominally grow, but slightly decrease in real terms this year. Material and energy prices have battered infrastructure projects hardest as seeking extra financing can be lengthy and difficult. Threats to construction growth in this forecast horizon are evidently increased costs of materials and energy, counter-inflationary policies, and the instability caused by the neighbouring war to regional and global trade networks. Countering these are the positive outlook for wages, employment, investment, and the overall economy. The availability of EU programs for co-financing, including the Recovery and Resilience Facility, could also help certain construction segments.

Serbia. In these challenging times, it will be a real endeavour to keep the pace and level of construction activity, even for a heated and growing Serbian economy. Unfortunately, economic and political developments in Europe are threatening to forcefully subdue the growing cycle in construction and the economy as a whole. So far, the economy is showing a relative resilience and construction activity has only slightly decreased compared to its expected performance in 2022, while permits are still keeping the good tempo. Nevertheless, the risks are still there, and a prolonged instability could produce a much deeper downturn and longer recovery. The strong performance of civil engineering and residential will assist this year’s output levels, but prospects for the rest of this forecast period are still quite conditioned by external factors. The ongoing economic crisis in the EU could easily escalate and produce further adjustments for 2023 and 2024 figures.    

Slovenia. Construction output increased fast in 2021 as the pandemic subsided. With rapid economic growth following in 2022, total construction output will likely exceed EUR 4 billion for the first time since 2008. Real growth will be slower, though, as construction cost index has also increased with the fastest pace in a decade, up by more than 10% in 2021 and 2022. Future growth is projected to be slower, especially if interest rates grow faster than expected due to high inflation rates. Still, several large civil engineering as well as residential construction projects are set to continue and prevent construction output from decreasing. 

Russia. Last year, the Russian economy showed strong recovery, partly on the back of construction whose growth turned out to be much better than expected (6,8% instead of 3,2% that EECFA had previously forecasted). The reasons behind were the active completion of non-residential projects that had been frozen in 2020, high demand in the housing market that supported construction activity in residential, and considerable state funding for various infrastructure projects that accelerated growth in civil engineering. However, the special military operation in Ukraine that began in February this year has neutralized all positive trends in construction and has led to a sharp worsening in the macroeconomic situation. Unprecedented economic sanctions imposed on Russia will inevitably affect the construction sector whose output is predicted to be negative throughout the forecast horizon: -2,7% in 2022 and from -1% to -1,4% in 2022-2024.

Türkiye. The Turkish economy is facing an unprecedented devaluation in Lira and soaring inflation, hammering wage earners. Manufacturing sectors relying on imported inputs, agriculture, and construction in particular, face difficulties in financing production and selling to customers with lower real incomes. But industrial production and exports are not much hit by the weakened Lira. Since the beginning of 2022, housing shortage, high dwelling prices and rents have been an issue. In the last 21 years fewer homes were built than the need, and the around 3,8 million Syrian refugees and illegal migrants appear to contribute to housing shortage. Due to the roughly 2,8 million dwelling units under construction, housing starts in Q1 2022 may continue to fall by the end of the year. The small decline in housing completion, however, because of declining demand under current macroeconomic conditions, may turn into a positive rate of change under the effects of interest rate subsidies for mortgage loans. Total construction output in Türkiye in 2022 is estimated to contract, so it would be the fourth consecutive year of decline. Mild recovery is expected to begin from next year on.

Ukraine. Since February 2022, Ukraine has been at war with Russia. As of June 2022, the Russians destroyed up to 30% of Ukraine’s infrastructure, damaged 2% of overpasses and more than 23,000 km of roads in Ukraine. About 20% of Ukraine’s territory is being occupied. Russia blocked the seaports through which imported goods were delivered to Ukraine. Building material factories and warehouses mostly remained in the occupied territory and most developers have frozen their projects for an indefinite period. Despite this, some positive signs are beginning to appear in the construction market, mainly in residential where the market is gradually reviving, adapting to the military situation (especially in the relatively safe western region). Little by little, critical infrastructure is being restored (destroyed bridges, roads, electricity and gas supply, communication lines). Under these conditions of major uncertainty, and before the end of the war, predicting future developments in the construction market of Ukraine is impossible. Therefore, Uvecon, EECFA’s Ukrainian member institute in Kiev, prepared a brief Status Report this time instead of the usual Forecast Report.

____________

Source of data: EECFA Construction Forecast Report, 2022 Summer

Contact information: www.eecfa.com, info@eecfa.com

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.

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).

Conclusion

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.

Link to this viz ->

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.

EECFA countries in the European Commission’s 2021 Macro Forecast

EECFA has again examined the main changes in the prospects between the Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021 Macro Forecasts of the European Commission for those EECFA member countries which are covered by this forecast; Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, plus Hungary.

Written by Bálint Parragi, EECFA Research, ELTINGA

After a severe recession during last year, the global economy as a whole could grow again in Spring 2021, and it is expected to continue doing so. As the first chart shows, GDP in all countries could recover fast and return to an increasing trajectory.

In Autumn 2020, projections showed the majority of the countries in the EECFA region with a stagnating or very slowly increasing economy. This was mainly due to the composition of the 3-year-average comprising a year with a very deep recession, and the two upcoming years with cautious estimations of growth. The only two economies with growth exceeding 1% were Serbia and Turkey (2.3% and 2% respectively) as these economies shrank least in 2020 (-1.8% and -2.5%).

On the other hand, the results are quite different in the European Commission’s Spring 2021 report where every EECFA country registers a positive GDP growth with all of them being at least 0.5%. The order of countries is almost identical to the one in Autumn 2020 and we can see a grouping of countries:

  • The first one is the group of the highest growing two countries, Serbia and Turkey again. This time, Turkey has a higher average growth, though (+3.7% and +2.8% respectively). The significant growth is the result of the slight contraction (or even growth) during 2020 (-1% in Serbia and +1.8% in Turkey).
  • The second group consists of countries with a negligible growth according to the Autumn 2020 report (+0.4-+0.7%) but with a more remarkable increase projected in Spring 2021; above 1% in each case and reaching 1.5% in Romania, Hungary, and Slovenia.
  • The economies in the last category: Croatia, Russia, together with the EU, all decreased according to the Autumn 2020 report, but in the Spring 2021 report it seems that they have better prospects in the future as they may grow to a little extent (+0.5-+1.1%).

When it comes to total investment (gross fixed capital formation) data, two general conclusions can be drawn:

  • Firstly, the projection in Spring 2021 is higher for every country than the Autumn 2020 values. The upward revision is especially remarkable for Turkey, Croatia, and Romania. This again could mean that economic recovery is expected to be a rapid process.
  • Secondly, the expected GFCF growth is positive in every country in 2021, except for Russia where it is close to zero. However, the countries are not homogeneous as Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia and Slovenia have an expected growth within 4%-6%, but Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia, as well as the EU, has a growth smaller than 2% (average of 2020-2021-2022).

Construction investment growth (where available – click the arrow on the chart above) has been revised upward everywhere, but while in Bulgaria it has grown by just 0.4 percentage points, it has multiplied in Hungary, Slovenia and Romania. For the latter, it has even exceeded 8% per annum. Construction’s share in total investment in EECFA countries and Hungary ranges from 55% (Bulgaria) to 64% (Romania), with Hungary and Slovenia in between (62% and 59%, respectively).

All these represents the Commission’s opinion. If you are curious about our opinion on Eastern European construction markets or you need construction forecast on segment level, please consult with the latest EECFA reports. For a sample report and order, visit eecfa.com

EECFA 2021 Summer Construction Forecast – 3rd Pandemic edition

EECFA’s 2021 Summer Construction Forecast Report up to 2023 was released on 28 June. Full reports can be ordered here. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Southeast Europe

In the first year of the pandemic the construction market of the SEE region as a whole remained in the positive, and further expansion is expected until 2023. The only exception is Bulgaria where a harsh transition is foreseen for 2023 when the 2014-2020 EU programming period ends financially. The massive growth experienced in the years before 2020 is not anticipated to return; around 3% growth is projected for 2021 and 2022, and a 3% drop for 2023. The countries with the largest cumulated growth on the forecast horizon are Croatia and Serbia.

Bulgaria. After a drop of 4.2% in 2020, the European Commission (EC) forecasts the economy to rebound by the end of 2021 and to grow by 3.5%. Positive economic outlook, combined with low interest rates on home loans, will result in more affordable homes. But increased savings and zero deposit rates raise speculative investments in residential, pushing home prices up. Non-residential construction was expected to decelerate even before the pandemic, but the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated this process. Civil engineering is backed by advancing EU fund absorption and by 2027 will be given new opportunities. After an estimated drop in total construction in 2020 by 1.3% in Bulgaria, 2021 and 2022 are expected to see a growth of 9.2% and 12%, respectively. But a considerable drop of 24% is prognosticated in construction output in 2023 due to the slow preparation for the next programming period and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Croatia. We are significantly more optimistic about output growth in a number of Croatian construction sectors than in our last report. Assistance from the EU and international financial institutions blunted the edge of the three catastrophes that struck Croatia in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Zagreb and Sisak-Maslovina earthquakes. For most (but not all) sectors, it appears that the catastrophes will not greatly change the drivers of output growth over the medium to long term, although they will have some short-term consequences. The three-year hiatus until the next elections in Croatia and the recent election of a reformist mayor in Zagreb, Croatia’s economic powerhouse, provide openings for spurring Croatia’s economic growth and so construction output, but it is not clear that they will be utilized.

Romania. The economic impact of Covid-19 has been less than initially feared. Investment into construction grew strongly in 2020, preventing GDP from a larger drop, and we expect investment to continue in the following years thanks to the RRF. Recovery is also to be quicker than previously forecasted: the EC forecasts a GDP growth of 5.1% for 2022 and 4.9% for 2023. EECFA’s forecast for 2021 and 2022 in construction output is a small contraction (-0.7% and -0.2%) with growth returning in 2023 with 2.6%. Last year residential developers focused on finishing as many projects as possible as there were concerns of a potential market downturn. It didn’t happen, but the new supply to be delivered in the next years could push prices down under normal market conditions.

Serbia. In 2021 things are getting back to normal with the economy standing strong and having already surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Serbia’s economy was one of the least affected in Europe with GDP contracting just 1% last year, and an expected real growth of around 6.5% this year. Recovery is visible in almost all economic segments except for some service sectors still struggling to reach 2019 levels. Serbia’s weaker exposure to tourism and related services moderated losses during the pandemic, and investment stayed strong in both 2020 and 2021. In addition, the government increased public investments in infrastructure and civil engineering projects. Demand in Europe is also recovering, orders are growing again, and with tourism on the rise as well, there is a lot of reason for optimism in the coming period.

Slovenia. Construction industry and the economy in general was less disrupted by the pandemic than originally expected. While GDP decreased by 5.5% in 2020, it is expected to rebound strongly in 2021. Total construction output stayed at almost exactly the same level in 2020 as in 2019: EUR 3.4bln; and it is prognosticated to increase strongly in 2021 and 2022, and exceed EUR 4.1bln in 2023, for the first time since 2008. An interesting recent development though has been the rise in construction costs in 2021 resulting from high demand and supply disruptions owing to the pandemic and its economic aftermath. However, we estimate that this increase in construction cost will be temporary and will decelerate after 2022.

East Europe

The worst performer in 2020 in the Eastern region of EECFA was Turkey, but the downtrend here started well before the pandemic struck. As recovery is awaited to start this year in Turkey, the region as a whole could turn to positive in 2021. Expansion is our current scenario for the region with 9% cumulated real growth until 2023. The largest cumulated market growth on the horizon, thanks to the relatively low starting point, could happen in Turkey.

Russia. The economy is coping with the effects of the pandemic relatively well. GDP contraction last year turned out to be less serious than anticipated with one reason being the stability of the construction sector that showed high resilience to the crisis on the back of active government support for the entire industry, the implementation of many transport and energy projects, and measures to support demand for homes. Construction output shrank by 0.9% in 2020 (against the previously expected drop of about 5%-6%). In the short term, the decline is most likely to slow down to 0.3% in 2021 with a transition to active growth in 2022-2023 within 3.9%-3.4% per year, respectively. Optimism for the next two years stems from the expected recovery in housing construction and the continued infrastructure projects in civil engineering.

Turkey. The economy is showing a rebound after the pandemic. The recent months have seen positive rates of change in GDP, industrial production, value added of construction sector, building starts, and completions. However, a weak Turkish Lira against foreign currencies continues to cause inflationary problems to the economy. Producer prices, construction costs and mortgage interest rates have been increasing at rates close to the rise in exchange rates. The government may again adopt the policy of requiring the three state-owned banks to offer preferential mortgage loans. Total construction output in Turkey is estimated to have slumped by 6.9% last year, but this year growth might return averaging roughly +4% all the way through the forecast horizon.

Ukraine. Last year the construction market was marked by the impact of Covid-19 along with internal problems such as the reform of the State Architectural and Construction Inspection, primarily affecting housing construction. On a positive note, the president launched the Big Construction scheme in March 2020 to support construction industry, so we estimate the overall decline to be 2.2%. And although the recession has reduced the investment flow in construction this year, it has increased demand for some commercial segments such as logistics and co-working offices. As the Big Construction scheme will have sufficient funds for this year as well, it gives cause for optimism for now, and Ukraine’s construction market is forecasted to register growth across the board. 

____________

Source of data: EECFA Construction Forecast Report, 2021 Summer

Contact information: www.eecfa.com, info@eecfa.com

Serbian construction: one of the strongest growth cycles in recent history

Written by Dejan Krajinović, Beobuild Core D.O.O., EECFA Serbia

During the last six years, between 2015 and 2020, our forecasts closely followed the significant turnaround in Serbian construction, which rolled out into one of the strongest growth cycles in recent history. The powerful surge in construction outputs surpassed all initial expectations, and there are a number of converging factors behind its formidable result. The recovery after the recession gradually transformed itself into a fully-fledged construction boom, which more than doubled Serbia’s construction outputs, from EUR 2 billion in 2015 to EUR 4 billion in 2019. Even the pandemic in 2020 didn’t change the very positive outlooks, although it did cause a slowdown and negative consolidation of construction outputs by some 5% at constant prices. The expected growth should return in 2021 and all indicators are still on the side of our initial forecast.

How ‘good’ is EECFA’s Sample Report?
The 3 charts compare our 3 forecasts for total construction output at constant price as 2014=100 index. Forecast figures are dotted, factual figures are solid lines.

Three of our previous forecasts for total construction output in Serbia
(source: EECFA)

The chart on the left shows our first forecast for 2018. It was published in June 2016 and this is our sample report. (See the full PDF and the corresponding XLS file.) The factual 2018 figures were published in the 2nd half of 2019.

The chart in the middle is our forecast issued in Winter 2019, where the 2018 figure is therefore the final one. 2018 factual data are very close to what was foreseen in June 2016.

The chart on the right is our latest forecast, including the 2019 factual figures, which was published in the meantime. Although we were very optimistic for 2019, the final results turned out to be even better.

Reforms as a prelude

With political changes in 2013, Serbia embarked on a reform path that is slowly proving to be one of the main pillars behind its success story. The initiation of the ongoing cycle happened with the new permit laws implemented in 2015, but this was also followed by new and flexible labor laws, as well as a number of smaller legislations. The new permit laws and the introduction of e-permits made administrative processes very fast and transparent, where the World Bank ranked Serbia in the Top 10 most efficient permit systems in the world. These were critically important legal reforms, which laid ground for investments in practically all construction segments. The reforms started in deep austerity, with tough fiscal reforms including linear pay cuts, halt in state funding and the cancellation of all government programs affecting construction. At the time, it would be impossible to see all the implications we see today, particularly the speed of overall changes.

Tango of public and private

What came as a new strength for this cycle in 2017 was the removal of the austerity measures after the successful fiscal consolidation. Not only public debt was reduced, and budgetary deficits closed, but the Government funds are returning as one of the major contributors in construction. This is a key factor in infrastructure, but also in various public buildings and residential construction. With all weaknesses and possible risks involved, it was very easy to underestimate the scale of the recovery. While an amazing performance of civil engineering was largely expected, the results in the construction of buildings came as a pleasant surprise. Only between 2016 and 2020, the levels of output in building construction almost doubled. The total amount grew from EUR 900 million in 2016 to EUR 1.7 billion in 2020, with a strong contribution of residential, commercial and industrial sub-segments. The star performer is the residential segment that pushed us to make several upward revisions during the last 5 years, as permits consecutively broke all expectations.

Strong foundations

In 2020, the positive effects of the boom affected literally all construction segments, and the brewing activity continued even during the pandemic. Already in the second half of 2020, the situation stabilized, and investments were desperately waiting for a full normalization. Permit numbers recovered, land and home sales returned to pre-pandemic levels and none of the investors cancelled their construction start. The overall economy is a strong supporter of the property market and conditions have been improving year by year. Most foreign investments went into manufacturing, giving a strong foundation for a sustained economic growth in the coming period. During 2020, Serbia’s GDP fell only 1.5% compared with 2019, while exports and investments continued to grow. This means we can expect a strong rebound of the economy in 2021, where GDP is expected to grow between 5%-6%. Similar growth rates are expected in 2022, as well.

Multi-vector policies

By not being a member of the European Union, Serbia was unable to access EU development funds for stable financing of its transport and other civil infrastructure. For years, the regional infrastructure was neglected, until an old friend came to the rescue. In 2009 Serbia signed a strategic cooperation deal with China, which provided full financial and logistical support in infrastructure development. The first project started in 2011 and since then, projects Serbia contracted with China have been worth over EUR 10 billion, including motorways, high-speed railways, energy, and public utilities. The Sino-Serbian partnership has been growing by the years and beside preferential development funds, it now covers a wide cooperation in various interstate projects, from education to security. Chinese companies also invested several billion of euros in the Serbian industry, including mining, metallurgy, electric and home appliances, car parts, etc. We can expect this cooperation to deepen further in the coming years, with even larger-scale projects and investments on the horizon.

How much steam in this cycle?

This is not an ordinary construction cycle, at least not in its length, potency or context. Although, construction output levels were on their historical bottom when the cycle began, its size and distribution prove this is a farther-reaching process. Such a strong recovery in construction levels is indicating an economic shift, which could produce a sustained expansion in the coming years. It can be expected for Serbia to reposition itself as a leading regional economy, and construction outputs to continue breaking historical records. While some of the construction sub-segments will eventually mature and consolidate, the overall trend in total construction figures will maintain an upward direction for several more years. The huge and long-delayed civil-engineering projects will lead construction growth in the forecasts, but buildings shouldn’t fall too much behind. The basis for growth in the construction of buildings is also strong, but its trajectory will be less pronounced and more cyclical.

Ongoing expectations

Current forecasts are showing the cycle will continue until 2023, with a particularly strong performance of civil engineering. Major civil sub-segments will be roads and railways, but other transport infrastructure and energy will also likely break new records in the coming period. Building construction should decelerate its growth rates and even top this cycle in some segments, but the overall trend is to remain positive. We expect the residential segment to maintain its growth rates until 2023, while the non-residential one will probably consolidate in 2021 and return to growth in 2022. It is possible that this cycle can even surpass the current estimates in some scenarios. A lot of external factors can affect mid-term forecasts, so it still remains to be seen how it will all play out.