As the most prosperous republic of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia emerged from its brief 10-day war of secession in 1991 as an independent nation for the first time in its history. Since that time, the country has made steady but cautious progress toward developing a market economy. Economic reforms introduced shortly after independence led to healthy economic growth. Slovenia's economy has benefited from the country's embrace of liberal trade, following the rule of law, and rewarding enterprise. The country has a well-educated and productive work force as well as dynamic and effective political and economic institutions. Despite recent declines in GDP growth, Slovenia is one the best economic performers in central and eastern Europe, with a 2009 GDP per capita of $23,800. The current government is actively introducing measures to shore up Slovenian businesses in light of the global economic crisis. The biggest influence on the Slovene economy in 2011, however, will be the ability of Slovenia’s export markets, notably Germany, to recover quickly from the recession.
Slovenia already enjoyed a relatively prosperous economy and strong market ties to the West when it gained independence in 1991. Although it comprised only about one-thirteenth of Yugoslavia's total population, Slovenia was the most productive of the Yugoslav republics, accounting for one-fifth of its GDP and one-third of its exports. Since independence, Slovenia has pursued diversification of its trade toward the West and integration into Western and transatlantic institutions vigorously, becoming party to a number of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. Slovenia is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and joined the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in 1996. Slovenia also participates in the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), the Central European Initiative, the Royaumont Process, and the Black Sea Economic Council. Slovenia became an EU member state on May 1, 2004 and joined the Euro Zone in January 2007. Slovenia joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Europe (OECD) in 2010.
Slovenia's economy is highly dependent on foreign trade. About three-quarters of its trade is with the EU, and the vast majority of this is with Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. The country has successfully penetrated the south and east markets, including the former Soviet Union region. This high level of openness makes Slovenia extremely sensitive to economic conditions in its main trading partners and changes in its international price competitiveness. Keeping labor costs in line with productivity is a key challenge for Slovenia's economic well-being.
Gross domestic product growth fell to 3.5% in 2008 after experiencing a growth rate of about 6.1% the prior year. Due to the recession in Slovenia’s export markets, GDP fell by about 7.8% in 2009. Services contributed the most to the national output in 2009, accounting for 61% of GDP. Industry and construction comprised 37% of GDP, and agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 2% of GDP. While the service sector is the largest part of the economy as a percentage of GDP, manufacturing accounts for most employment, with machinery and other manufactured products comprising the major exports. International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics put unemployment at 7% (March 2009). Inflation, after declining from 3.6% in 2004 to 2.5% in 2005 and 2006, returned to 3.6% for 2007, and spiked to 6.4% in 2008, but has decreased to 1.8% since the onset of the global economic crisis.
Energy is at the forefront in Slovenia today as the government considers how to restructure the sector. Slovenia is becoming increasingly dependent on imports of primary energy sources. In 2008, net imports in gross domestic consumption reached 55.3%. This is primarily due to the demand for fossil fuel for transportation (petroleum products) and heating (natural gas). Electricity production and consumption are more or less balanced in Slovenia. The share of renewables, including hydro power, amounted to roughly 11% of primary energy sources during the last 5 years. According to 2008 figures, Slovenia covers 19% of its energy needs with fossil fuels, 37% with petroleum products, 12% with natural gas, 21% with nuclear energy, 4% with hydro energy, and 7% from renewable sources. In view of domestic sources, nuclear power prevails with 44%, followed by fossil fuels with 32%, hydro energy with 9%, and other renewable sources with 14%. More than 58% of Slovenia’s surface is covered with forests, providing an ample source of renewable energy.
Although Slovenia has taken a cautious, deliberate approach to economic management and reform, with heavy emphasis on achieving consensus before proceeding, its overall record is one of relative success. Economic management in Slovenia is relatively good. That said, the economic crisis of 2008 revealed some of the underlying structural problems with the Slovenian economy. The OECD’s Economic Survey of Slovenia 2011 stresses the urgent need for immediate pension reform, drastic changes in distribution of funds available for education, cancellation of pay increases in the public sector, stress tests for the entire banking sector, and introduction of measures to make Slovenia friendlier to foreign direct investment (FDI) in order to increase productivity, rebalance the national economy, and increase competitiveness.
Due to its macroeconomic stability, favorable foreign debt position, and successful accession to the EU, Slovenia consistently receives the highest credit rating of all transition economies--receiving the top regional honors in a recent Dunn & Bradstreet survey. Slovenia's ability to meet its growth rate objectives will largely depend on the state of the world economy, since export demand in Slovenia's primary market has stalled. Foreign direct investment will take up the slack to some extent, as analysts forecast FDI levels will continue to increase with further privatization of state assets, including portions of the telecommunications, financial, and energy sectors. Slovenia must carefully address fiscal, monetary, and FDI policy, in light of the high deficit in pension accounts, its vulnerable Western export markets, and inflation concerns. Slovenian enterprises have a tradition of market orientation that has served them well in the transition period, as they moved energetically to reorient trade from former Yugoslav markets to those of Central and Eastern Europe. However, in many cases under the Slovenian brand of privatization, managers and workers in formerly "socially owned" enterprises have become the majority shareholders, perpetuating the practices of "worker management" that were the hallmark of the Yugoslav brand of socialism. Difficulties associated with that model are expected to decrease under competitive pressures, as shares in these firms change hands, and as EU reforms introduce more Western-oriented governance practices.
Government efforts and reforms designed to attract foreign direct investment have proven somewhat successful--FDI is continuing to slowly grow. Slovenia's traditional anti-inflation policy in the past relied heavily on capital inflow restrictions. Its slow privatization process favored domestic investors and prescribed long lag time on share trading, complicated by a cultural wariness of being "bought up" by foreigners. As such, Slovenia has had a number of impediments to full foreign participation in its economy. However, a number of these barriers to FDI were fully removed in 2002. Despite these improvements, Slovenia scored poorly in a 2010 World Economic Forum report on FDI openness (116 out of 139 in two categories: prevalence of foreign ownership and rules impacting FDI) and has a relatively low level of FDI in comparison to the region. U.S. investments in Slovenia have been modest; Goodyear is the largest American investor. Even with these successes, much of the economy remains in state hands and foreign direct investment in Slovenia is one of the lowest in the EU on a per capita basis. American companies looking to do business in Slovenia face a challenging environment, particularly if they are interested in selling goods and services to the government. The public procurement process, although compliant with most EU regulations and international treaties, remains opaque and riddled with favoritism and corruption.
GDP (2009): 36.386 billion euros ($48.738 billion).
Real GDP growth rate (2009): -7.8%.
GDP per capita (2009): $23,800.
Natural resources: Coal, mercury, timber.
Agriculture/forestry/fishing (approx. 2% of GDP): Products--wheat, corn, poultry, beef, pork, milk, potatoes, orchard fruits, wine.
Industry (approx. 37% of GDP): Types--electrical equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products, electricity, metal products, wood products, transportation equipment.
Services (approx. 61% of GDP): Types--retail, transportation, communications, real estate and other business activities.
Trade: Exports ($24.3 billion, 2009 est.)--machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured articles, chemical products. To U.S.--Slovenia exported 1.31% of its total exports to the U.S., which amounted to $280.64 million worth of exports (2009). Imports ($22.9 billion, 2009 est.)--machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured articles, mineral fuels and lubricants. From U.S.--Slovenia imported 1.94% of its total imports from the U.S., which amounted to $442.53 million worth of imports (2009). Major trading partners--Germany, Italy, Croatia, Austria, France, and Russia. Trade with the U.S. accounts for 1%-2% of total trade.
Foreign direct investment in 2010: $60.53 million (0.41% of total FDI in Slovenia).