ZAGREB, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde has praised Croatia's economic outlook, but also warned against lagging behind advanced Europe, daily paper "Vecernji list" reported on Wednesday.
While attending a conference organized by the Croatian National Bank (HNB) and IMF in Dubrovnik on Tuesday, Lagarde welcomed Croatia's growth for the third consecutive year, its strong fiscal outcome in 2016, and its exit from the EU's excessive deficit procedure in June 2017, but she noted that slow economic progress in the country and the entire region is primarily due to poor governance and weak institutions.
The IMF chief said strong, stable and independent institutions were key to progress and faster growth.
"The region transformed successfully from centrally planned economies to market-based systems in less than a generation, but the progress has slowed down since the global financial crisis. I believe that good governance and strong institutions can play a crucial role in speeding up the convergence process with advanced Europe and making growth more durable and inclusive," said Lagarde.
She recommended strengthening Croatia's economic defenses, including through further reducing debt and also emphasized the importance of fiscal and structural reforms to improve competitiveness and boost private sector growth and employment opportunities, especially for women and the youth.
Asked about Croatia's joining the Eurozone, Lagarde said it was up to Croatia to make that decision, adding that the country could only benefit from that process.
"Meeting the European Monetary Union membership criteria would certainly be good for a country aspiring to introduce the euro," said Lagarde.
During the visit to Croatia, Lagarde met with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalic, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric and HNB Governor Boris Vujcic.