Export economy is back on track

The Austrian import and export industry is nearing pre-crisis levels, figures presented today (Fri) confirm.

Federal statistics organisation Statistik Austria announced that firms based in the country exported products worth 109.37 billion Euros in 2010, up by 16.7 per cent compared to 2009. The value of exports dropped by nearly 19 per cent from 2008 – when a once-in-a-generation recession hit the global economy – to the next year. The 2010 export figure equals 93.1 per cent of the value of exports in 2008.

The value of Austrian imports increased by 16.5 per cent from 2009 to 2010 to 113.65 billion Euros after a 15 per cent decrease from 2008 to 2009. Austrian companies’ imports ranged around five per cent below the value of such activities in 2008.

Germany has retained its place as Austria’s most essential trading partner. Nearly a third (31.6 per cent) of all products shipped into Austria were manufactured in Germany. Almost 40 per cent of Austrian firms’ import businesses (39.5 per cent) were conducted with Germany in 2010.

Only a few weeks ago, ÖVP Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner announced exporting firms which have their headquarters in Austria should increase their focus on business activities in emerging markets to stay competitive.

Mitterlehner said around 83 per cent of all Austrian exports occur within Europe. He pointed out that Germany was much less dependent on other European states with an export share of just 71 per cent. The minister revealed his target was to raise the value of Austrian exports to markets outside Europe by 13 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020. He launched a programme including financial stimuli for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to achieve this share.

Austria’s economy weathered the crisis comparably well. The country’s part-time scheme – which included subsidies for firms which put staff into short time instead of laying them off despite a decline of orders – has been praised as a role model to get through economic turmoil by the European Commission (EC). Some of Austria’s leading companies but also several SMEs took advantage of the cooperation offer made by the federal coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative ÖVP.

At the same time, an increasing number of CEOs is appealing to political leaders to press on with reforms to the country’s bureaucracy to save costs and turn Austria into a more efficient nation. Experts see a saving potential of hundreds of millions of Euros a year if the SPÖ-ÖVP government finally dares to carry out such a restructuring process. The coalition is forced to reduce the growing state debt which ranges beyond 70 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) at the moment. The Republic of Austria has debts of more than 200 billion Euros, and forecasts show that this figure is set to soar in coming years.

Company leaders and economists have also criticised the country’s taxation modus. Experts have claimed that low and medium incomes are burdened too heavily while large assets are not targeted in any way. ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter said she planned to reform the tax system in favour of hardworking people and families. The minister explained her goal was to create a “fairer and more logical” fiscal system.