Ex-Soviet economies hit by high inflation: EBRD

KIEV, May 18, 2008 (AFP) – The new market economies of the former Soviet block have shrugged off the global credit crunch but are facing slower economic growth because of rampant inflation, the EBRD said Sunday at its annual meet.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 17th annual two-day conference takes place this year amid global economic turmoil and record high prices for vital commodities like crude oil and wheat.

“The major concern in the region is inflation,” said Erik Berglof, chief economist, at a press conference unveiling the institution’s latest forecasts.

Gross domestic product growth in its operating region, which includes Estonia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine, was predicted to stand at 6.0 percent this year, down from a record high 7.3 percent in 2007.

Many of the 28 countries in the EBRD’s operating region are experiencing double-digit inflation as they suffer from runaway commodity prices, with crude oil rocketing close to 128 dollars per barrel last week.

In host nation Ukraine, the annual pace of inflation surged to 30 percent in April, which contrasted sharply with eurozone 12-month inflation of 3.3 percent.

“The anticipated (economic) slowdown reflects very rapid increase