Economic and Political Overview

flag Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

Nowadays, Bosnia and Herzegovina is considered an upper-middle-income country, achieving great results since 1995, the year in which the inter-ethnic conflict that destroyed much of the Bosnian economy and infrastructure, increased unemployment and decreased production, came to an end. Following a robust post-COVID-19 recovery, economic activity decelerated in the first half of 2023 due to weakening external demand and subdued private consumption amid persistently high, albeit decelerating inflation. The IMF estimated GDP growth for the entire year of 2023 at 2%. In 2024 and 2025, anticipated stronger private consumption, bolstered by lower inflation, along with strengthening external demand, are expected to facilitate a moderate acceleration in growth, reaching around 3%.

In the last few years, the general government accounts stayed nearly balanced, driven by stronger-than-expected revenue growth. However, planned investment spending faced challenges in implementation, primarily due to administrative obstacles and/or political deadlocks. This pattern is expected to persist in 2024 and 2025, although the upcoming general elections in 2024 are anticipated to introduce spending pressures, potentially resulting in a higher deficit. The IMF forecasted the budget deficit at 1.3% of GDP last year, 1.5% in 2024, and 1.1% in 2025. The debt-to-GDP ratio is relatively low (at 28.6% in 2023) and is expected to remain stable over the forecast horizon (IMF). Despite decelerating compared to the previous year, inflation remained high at 5.5% in 2023, primarily driven by rising prices for food, non-alcoholic beverages, housing, electricity, and household equipment. Throughout the forecast period, headline inflation is expected to continue declining, mainly due to the slowdown in price increases for imported commodities, particularly energy.

During the first eight months of 2023, employment was 1.3% higher than a year before, although unemployment remained high (15.3%, IMF). The primary sectors generating employment were trade and tourism. An outflow of skilled labor was also noticed, leading to labor shortages in sectors like construction. This trend might exacerbate wage pressures beyond productivity growth, potentially affecting the country's competitiveness. Short-term projections indicate continued growth in employment and further declines in unemployment, although a substantial portion of structural unemployment may constrain the extent of this decrease. The country’s GDP per capita (PPP) is low, estimated at USD 20,377 in 2022 by the World Bank.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 24.5427.2229.0830.7532.44
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.21.82.53.03.0
GDP per Capita (USD) 7,0647,8578,4168,9279,440
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) 0.2-0.9-2.5-2.5-2.2
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 29.628.129.730.231.1
Inflation Rate (%) 14.06.13.02.72.5
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 15.413.313.313.313.3
Current Account (billions USD) -1.07-1.18-1.30-1.32-1.33
Current Account (in % of GDP) -4.3-4.3-4.5-4.3-4.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

The agricultural sector accounts for 4.8% of the country’s GDP and nearly 17% of total employment (World Bank, latest data available), with corn, wheat, barley, fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry being the main agricultural products. Bosnia and Herzegovina has approximately 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land (43.2% of its total land area - FAO), and most of the farms are small in size and family-owned. The country is still a net food importer. According to the latest figures from the national statistical office, Bosnia's Federation maize crop stood at 429,229 tonnes in 2023, while soybean production reached 15,816 tonnes.

The industrial sector employs 33.2% of the workforce. Bosnia and Herzegovina mainly produces raw materials such as steel, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, and aluminum. Additionally, wood is a significant sector and export commodity. Other important production sectors are mineral and chemical products, machinery, mechanical appliances, textiles, and footwear. The overall value-added of the manufacturing sector is estimated at 14% of GDP (World Bank). Bosnia's industrial production declined by 3.8% on the year in 2023, according to figures from the national statistical office.

Lastly, the service sector contributes 54.4% of GDP and half of total employment. The most important service sector of the economy is trade, followed by business services, transport, and construction. Tourism had been growing fast in recent years, and although it was impacted by the pandemic, it showed resilience: in 2023, the total number of tourists visiting the country reached 1.7 million, reflecting a 17.3% increase compared to the previous year. Additionally, total tourist overnights rose by 13.2% to 3.6 million during the same period. As per the latest figures by the European Banking Federation, 23 commercial banks operate in the country.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 11.3 34.3 54.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 4.7 25.2 53.7
Value Added (Annual % Change) -2.3 0.5 5.2

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Bosnian Mark (BAM) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 0.050.050.050.050.04

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
62,9/100
World Rank:
82
Regional Rank:
40

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Bosnia and Herzegovina is open to foreign trade and is expanding its global partner network. Its trade-to-GDP ratio is 97% (World Bank, latest data available), but trade development is still hampered by low productivity levels, limited access to finance, and administrative barriers. Custom duties are relatively low for most products, but various non-tariff barriers are in place. Anti-dumping and countervailing duties are sometimes imposed to protect the local industry if the price of the merchandise is below the domestic market price or if it is subsidized. Bosnia and Herzegovina seeks to attract higher foreign investment through Free Trade Zones within the country that allow investors to invest capital in specific areas, transfer their profits, and re-transfer capital. Customs duties and tariffs are not payable on imports into these zones. Furthermore, equipment (except passenger vehicles, slots, and gambling machines) imported as part of share capital is exempt from customs duties. BiH is actively pursuing World Trade Organization membership. The country mainly imports mineral fuels (16.5%); nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, and mechanical appliances (7.2%); electrical machinery and equipment (5.8%); plastics (5.5%); and aluminum (5.4%). Exports are led by mineral fuels (9.9%); aluminum (8.8%); furniture (7.8%); articles of iron or steel (7.4%); and electrical machinery and equipment (7.2% - data national statistical agency).

The country's main export partners in 2022 were Croatia, Germany, and Serbia, accounting for respectively 14.9%, 14.8%, and 13.1% of total export; followed by Italy (11.1%) and Austria (9.5%). Its main suppliers were Italy (12.4%), Serbia (10.7%), Germany (10.5%), Croatia (9.9%), and China (8.1% - data national statistical agency 2022). Overall, the EU is the biggest trading partner.

The country has a structural trade deficit: in 2022, the World Bank estimated the external balance on goods and services to be negative by 13.8% of GDP (from 11.8% one year earlier). In the same period, the Federation exported USD 9.6 billion worth of goods and USD 2.8 billion in services, importing USD 15.3 billion and 0.9 billion, respectively (data WTO). Figures from the national statistical office show that in 2023, Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed its trade deficit increase to BAM 11.068 billion (equivalent to USD 6.2 billion or EUR 5.7 billion), up from BAM 10.662 billion in 2022. Exports experienced a 7.1% annual decline, reaching approximately BAM 16.7 billion in 2023, while imports decreased by 3.0% to BAM 27.8 billion.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 11,1599,87313,02915,37715,355
Exports of Goods (million USD) 6,5786,1558,6149,6749,232
Imports of Services (million USD) 7735587398981,105
Exports of Services (million USD) 2,3731,5112,3852,9823,283
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.3-13.420.524.0n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.5-15.824.623.9n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 54.547.953.960.9n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 40.034.242.246.2n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -4,557-3,660-4,326-5,453n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -2,957-2,706-2,681-3,369n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 94.582.196.1107.1n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
Croatia 14.9%
Germany 14.8%
Serbia 13.9%
Austria 9.5%
Slovenia 7.9%
See More Countries 39.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
Serbia 10.8%
Germany 10.5%
Croatia 9.9%
China 8.1%
Türkiye 5.9%
See More Countries 54.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

9.7 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Electrical energyElectrical energy 6.1%
Unwrought aluminiumUnwrought aluminium 4.9%
Seats, whether or not convertible into beds, and...Seats, whether or not convertible into beds, and parts thereof, n.e.s. (excl. medical, surgical, dental or veterinary of heading 9402) 3.5%
Structures and parts of structures "e.g., bridges...Structures and parts of structures "e.g., bridges and bridge-sections, lock-gates, towers, lattice masts, roofs, roofing frameworks, doors and windows and their frames and thresholds for doors, shutters, balustrades, pillars and columns", of iron or steel; plates, rods, angles, shapes, sections, tubes and the like, prepared for use in structures, of iron or steel (excl. prefabricated buildings of heading 9406) 3.5%
Insulated "incl. enamelled or anodised" wire,...Insulated "incl. enamelled or anodised" wire, cable "incl. coaxial cable" and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors; optical fibre cables, made up of individually sheathed fibres, whether or not assembled with electric conductors or fitted with connectors 3.4%
See More Products 78.7%
15.4 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 10.2%
Unwrought aluminiumUnwrought aluminium 4.0%
Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels...Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal 3.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.9%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.0%
See More Products 77.7%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Energy, Mining and Industry
Ministry of Environment and Tourism
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations
Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry
Statistical Office
Federal Office of Statistics
Central Bank
Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Stock Exchange
The Sarajevo Stock Exchange
Banja Luka Stock Exchange
Search Engines
Pogodak (in local language only)
Economic Portals
Capital market portal

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (three-member body): Chairman of the Presidency Zeljko KOMSIC (chairman since 16 July 2023; presidency member since 20 November 2018 - Croat seat); Zeljka CVIJANOVIC (presidency member since 16 November 2022 - Serb seat); Denis BECIROVIC (presidency member since 16 November 2022 - Bosniak seat)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: October 2026
Parliamentary Assembly: 2026
Main Political Parties
Political parties are typically founded on an ethnic basis, these forces often lead to the creation of coalitions. The main parties represented in the Parliament include:

- Party of Democratic Action (SDA): centre-right, Bosniak nationalism, Islamist
- Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD): Serbian nationalism and social democracy
- Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) and its allies: centre-right, Christian democratic
- Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SDP): centre-left, influenced by Communism, but promotes social democracy
- Serbian Democratic Party (SDS): centre-right, comprised of Serbian nationalists, Pro-European
- Democratic Front (DF): centre-left, Pro-European, promotes social democratic ideals
- Civic Alliance (GS): centre-left, in coalition with DF
- People and Justice (NIP): liberal, conservative
- Party of Democratic Progress (PDP): national conservatism
- Our Party (NS): social-liberalism
- People's European Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (NES): centre, pro-European
- For New Generations (ZNG): social liberalism, pro-European.
Type of State
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a parliamentary republic.
As a 'compound' State, it is in line with the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton, Paris, 1995). It consists of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of territory, majority of Croats and Bosnians) and the Republic of Srpska (49% of territory, Serbian majority). Another 'sub-entity' is the District Brcko which was the subject of disputes and international arbitrage. Thus, Bosnia and Herzegovina has two entities, plus the Brcko District.
Executive Power
The function of the collective Head of State is performed by the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Presidency is comprised of three members: one Bosniac, one Croat and one Serb, representing the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. Members of the Presidency, the Croat and Bosniac candidates from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb candidate from the Republika Srpska, are elected by direct elections, for a period of four years. The Chairmanship of the Presidency is rotated every eight months among the three.

The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina is responsible for various government functions such as 'harmonising the constitutional relations of the Council of Ministers with the work of the President and parliamentary assembly'. After a new structure defined by the High Representative in 2002, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a Chairman, and two Vice-Chairmen also serving as ministers, plus other ministers. The Chairman and members of the Council of Ministers hold a four-year mandate, and each minister has a deputy. The function of the Secretary of the Ministry has also been introduced. Candidates are elected to these functions in line with the ethnic criterion to ensure that all nationalities are represented.

The Chairman of the Presidency appoints the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, who takes over the duties after the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirms the appointment. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers proposes candidates for ministers, to be appointed by the House of Representatives. The ministries cover the following areas: foreign affairs, foreign trade and economic relations, civil affairs, finance and treasury, human rights and refugees, justice, communications and transport, security and defence.

Legislative Power
The Parliamentary Assembly is the highest legislative authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is composed of the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples. All legislative decisions are made by the adoption in both houses of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The House of Representatives has 42 members elected for four-year terms, two-thirds being elected from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one–third from the Republika Srpska.

The House of Peoples has 15 delegates serving a four-year term, two-thirds coming from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five Croats and five Bosniaks) and one–third from the Republika Srpska (five Serbs).

Republika Srpska's unicameral legislature is the National Assembly, formed by 83 members directly elected for four-year terms.

The leading international civil agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Office of the High Representative, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the civil aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995). The High Representative - who is also the EU Special Representative - holds the ultimate authority in terms of the Peace Agreements' interpretation. The High Representative is authorised to pass laws, if considered necessary, remove officials that obstruct activities from their posts and coordinate activities with other international organisations.

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
58/180
Evolution:
58/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Partly Free
Political Freedom:
4/7
Civil Liberties:
34/40

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
COVID-19#B">IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: April 2024