In the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918–39) the Slovak part of the country was comparatively underdeveloped, an agricultural country with little industry. After the Second World War, the first five-year plan of socialist Czechoslovakia set in motion an accelerated development of heavy industry, which was associated with a massive transfer of resources (capital, raw materials, specialists) to the region (including the development of the steel industry near Košice). When the Slovak Republic was founded in early 1993, 34% of the residents of the former Czechoslovakia lived on its territory, but the country only generated a quarter of its economic output.
State independence began during the transition from a planned economy to a market economy. The separation from the Czech Republic had a very negative effect on many areas, as there were no transfer payments for the loss-making industrial companies (especially the heavy and armaments industries). An economic upswing began in 1994: Foreign direct investment, especially in industry, and, increasingly, private consumption contributed significantly to this. The annual growth rates of the gross domestic product (GDP) ranged between 1.9 and 10.5% in 1994–2008, but suffered a slump to -4.9% due to the international economic and financial crisis in 2009 and did not rise again until 2011 3.3% (2017: 3.4%). The gross national income (GNI) per resident was US $ 16,650 in 2017. Inflation in the same year was 1.3%, the national debt reached 50.9% of GDP.
Economic development varies greatly from region to region. It is very dynamic in the western and southern regions, especially in the greater Bratislava area, and much less favorable in the central and eastern areas, where unemployment is over 20% (2017: 8.1% national average). The Slovak Republic has been a member of the EU since May 1, 2004, and has also been part of the Eurozone since January 1, 2009.
Foreign trade: Since the beginning of the 1990s, the links between the Slovak economy and the traditional export markets, the socialist countries of the former Comecon area, have declined sharply. However, trade relations with Czech companies have proven to be stable. The most important trading partner in 2017 was Germany with a share of 20.7% of exports and 19.1% of imports, followed by the Czech Republic with 11.6% and 16.3% respectively. Poland, Russia and Austria also have a large share in foreign trade. Export products are mainly automobiles and auto accessories, electronic products and machines; the most important import product are energy sources. The trade balance has been positive without interruption since 2012 (2017: US $ 1.16 billion, 2018: US $ 0.18 billion).
Slovakia was largely an agricultural country until 1945. By 1961, the farms were almost completely collectivized, but under the legal framework created in 1991, most of the land was returned to the former owners. The agricultural sector generated 3.01% of GDP (2019); in the same year, 2.66% of the workforce was employed here.
Most of the agricultural production takes place in subsistence and part-time farms. Wheat, maize, sugar beet, tobacco, sunflowers and hops are grown in the climatically favorable plains, and rye, oats, barley and potatoes are grown in the lower mountain regions. Viticulture is practiced in the area around Bratislava. Pig farming dominates in the west of the Slovak Republic, along with horse and cattle breeding, and sheep breeding is widespread in the mountains. Organic farming is about to become an interesting market partner for the EU and other countries.
Forestry: Around 41% of the country’s area is forested. This makes Slovakia one of the countries with the densest forest cover in Europe. The largest forest areas are in the Low Tatras, in the Great and Small Fatra and in the Slovak Ore Mountains. In addition to logging (2017: 9 361 million m 3), the forests are used for keeping game and hunting.
The formerly intensive mining now only plays a subordinate role (around 0.5% of GDP). The formerly rich ore deposits in the Slovak Ore Mountains are largely exhausted. However, Slovakia has a number of smaller deposits in which, as in Banská Štiavnica, uranium is present and in some cases has been mined over a long period of time. In 2012-14 prospecting permits were granted for the promising uranium deposit Kurišková near Košice and for Nová Ves in the Spiš. However, massive protests by the population are blocking the dismantling. Lignite is produced in central Slovakia near Nováky and Handlová (Trenčín district). A small amount of oil and natural gas is produced in the Morava lowlands (March) (98% of natural gas is imported from Russia). In the Slovak Ore Mountains, iron ore is mined near Rudňany and Nižná Slaná, antimony ore near Dúbrava and magnesite near Jelšava (near Rožňava). Small amounts of lead and zinc ore are mined in the Štiavnické vrchy (formerly Schemnitz Mountains), some gold is mined near Kremnica. For most of the other raw materials, the Slovak Republic is completely dependent on imports.
In the nuclear power plants Jaslovské Bohunice (north of Trnava, four reactor units à 440 MW, two of which were shut down in 2006 and 2008 respectively) and Mochovce (Nitra district, two units à 470 MW), 27% of the country’s electrical energy was generated (2017). Lignite power plants near Handlová and Bratislava supplied 36% (2016). The government has set a goal of phasing out coal by 2023.
After 1950, hydropower plants were built on the upper and middle Váh (Waag) and on several of its tributaries. In Gabčíkovo since 1992/93 is an ecologically highly controversial hydropower plant in operation. The share of hydropower in total electricity generation was 24% (2017) and that of other renewable energies (2017) 13%. The long-term energy policy of the Slovak Republic aims to become energy self-sufficient.
In addition to the traditional food and wood processing industry (including the cellulose plant in Ružomberok), heavy industry companies with metal processing and petrochemicals, including important locations in the iron and steel industry (Košice; also smelting of Ukrainian ores) and aluminum production (Žiar nad Hronom; from Hungarian bauxite), the armaments industry, machine and vehicle construction (in Bánovce nad Bebravou and in Čadca), shipbuilding (Komárno), the chemical industry (Žilina, Humenné, oil processing near Bratislava) and the leather industry.
In the 1990s, according to allcountrylist, large-scale heavy and armaments industries in particular were affected by major structural change and, in some cases, by a decline. It was only towards the end of that decade that industry stabilized and began to grow strongly, primarily with the help of foreign direct investment. The industry generated (2018) 31.4% of GDP. Mechanical engineering and vehicle construction, energy generation, and the metalworking, electronic, chemical and pharmaceutical industries have the largest share of industrial production. The automotive industry, including its supplier industry, is of great importance in the Bratislava area, which contributed 27% to total exports in 2015.