Students from several high schools in Zagreb, including members of the debate club of the 2nd Zagreb Grammar School, visited the Croatian National Bank on 23 February. A presentation on the operation, functioning and role of the central bank in the economy; general history of central banks and central bank objectives and tasks; monetary policy and its specifics in the Republic of Croatia; prospects for Croatia's entry to the euro area; and the conditions which must be met before the euro replaces the kuna as the legal tender of Croatia was given by Ana Martinis, Advisor at the Economic Analysis Department. Through questions and responses following the first presentation, the students also learned more about Croatia's external and public debt and about whether there were any signals of their reduction, as well as about the specific issues related to the introduction of the euro as the legal tender based on the example of Kosovo and Montenegro.
This was followed by an informal discussion about the initiative for debt forgiveness to heavily indebted poor countries, in which CNB Vicegovernors Michael Faulend and Vedran Šošić also took part. The Vicegovernors discussed in particular the role and actions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as international financial institutions which had launched this initiative as early as 1996. Within the actions taken, debt of some thirty countries covered by the initiative has been either reduced or forgiven. The countries themselves implemented measures under the program to improve the quality of economic management. Most of these countries have no credit rating (they are not recognised on the international investment market) or are assigned a high-risk, speculative rating. In addition to poor living standards, weak education and health care systems, poor infrastructure, and high poverty rates, such countries usually struggle with corruption as well.
Does debt forgiveness or reduction have a positive impact on these countries or do they come back to the same problems; what is the effect of the conditions to be met for debt forgiveness or reduction programs; is unconditional forgiveness possible; what is the relationship between political systems in these countries and the implementation of debt forgiveness programs – these were some of the questions to which the Vicegovernors provided responses and explanations that, hopefully, helped the students in the preparation for the great international debate tournament related to this challenging topic of international monetary policy.
In efforts to improve financial literacy, the Croatian National Bank every year hosts numerous high school and university students, to which information is provided on the operation of the CNB as the central bank of Croatia as well as on specific topics, depending on the needs and interests.