Bulgaria: GDP growth moderates in the first quarter
According to preliminary data, GDP growth moderated to 5.0% in the first quarter of 2022, from 5.6% in the fourth quarter of last year.
Private consumption increased 6.4% in the first quarter, which was below the fourth quarter’s 8.3% expansion. Rapid increases in consumer prices and a pessimistic consumer outlook on the economy likely dragged on consumption. Public spending growth waned to 1.0% in Q1 (Q4 2021: +2.8%). Meanwhile, fixed investment dropped at a slower rate of 4.4% in Q1, compared to the 15.5% decrease recorded in the prior quarter.
On the external front, exports of goods and services growth fell to 7.4% in Q1, marking the worst result since Q1 2021 (Q4 2021: +13.8%). Conversely, imports of goods and services growth picked up to 14.1% in Q1 (Q4 2021: +10.9%).
On a seasonally-adjusted quarter-on-quarter basis, economic growth waned to 0.8% in Q1, following the previous period’s 1.3% increase. Q1’s reading marked the softest reading since Q2 2020.
After continuing to rebound from the pandemic in Q1, the economy likely slowed in Q2 due to the fallout from the war in Ukraine. Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria in late April, exacerbating energy insecurity and accelerating recent increases in energy prices. As a result, the war has likely dented private sector profitability and consumer purchasing power, contributing to cooling growth.
On the impact of the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Bulgaria’s growth prospects, analysts at the EIU commented:
“We forecast a slowdown in real GDP growth to 2.6% this year. Direct trade links to Russia and Ukraine are limited […]. Goods exports will nonetheless suffer amid weaker growth in EU trading partners. Services exports will take a hit, with weaker international tourism—Russians accounted for 7% of tourists visiting Bulgaria in 2019. The return of tourists from western Europe will also probably be subdued owing to heightened instability in the Black Sea region.”