Western Hemisphere > Antigua and Barbuda

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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Growth decelerated marginally in 2017, as the continued decline in CBI inflows slowed growth in construction. Consumer inflation was low, partly due to a small contraction in food prices. The overall fiscal balance remained in surplus but has deteriorated markedly since its 2013- peak, and the debt-to-GDP ratio increased marginally from the previous year. The current account deficit remains high and only marginally declined in 2017, as the decline in CBI receipts was more than offset by growing tourism receipts and a significant decrease in imports. Foreign reserves at the ECCB remained at comfortable levels, well above the various reserve-adequacy metrics. The banking sector has reported capital and liquidity ratios that are well above the regulatory minimum but has elevated NPLs and risks, including delays in completing the debt-land swap arrangement and loss of Corresponding Banking Relationships (CBRs).
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

Abstract

Recent developments in the Western Hemisphere—that is, the United States/Canada and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)—have been dominated by the impact of two distinct global shocks: the COVID-19 pandemic and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A third shock—the tightening of financial conditions—is now shaping the outlook. After contracting sharply in 2020, most of the Western Hemisphere’ economies recovered strongly in 2021 and early 2022, helped by the global recovery, the normalization of service sectors, and booming commodity prices. However, inflation pressures built up with pandemic-related disruptions, expansionary policies, rebounding demand, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and food prices. The swift response of LAC’s monetary authorities to rising inflation—well ahead of other economies—helped contain price pressures and keep long-term inflation expectations anchored, but inflation remains high. Amid global monetary and financial tightening, and the ensuing slowdown in global growth and softening of commodity prices, activity is expected to decelerate throughout the Western Hemisphere in late 2022 and 2023, while inflation pressures are expected to recede gradually. Downside risks dominate the outlook and stem from tighter financial conditions, a more pronounced global slowdown, and entrenched inflation. For LAC, a sharp fall in commodity prices and social unrest are important risks. With inflation yet to abate and most economies still operating at or near potential, monetary policy should avoid easing prematurely and must stay the course. Clear communication of policy intentions will be key to reducing uncertainty and keeping inflation expectations anchored. Fiscal support deployed to mitigate the impact of inflation on the most vulnerable should be accompanied by compensating measures, where fiscal space does not exist, but also support monetary authorities’ efforts to tame inflation. Given rising financing costs, strengthening fiscal frameworks and advancing with inclusive fiscal consolidation—that protects key social objectives—will be essential to credibly putting public debt on a firm downward path while ensuring social stability. Boosting LAC’s medium-term growth requires raising productivity and good-quality public and private investment. Supply-side policies should focus on strengthening human capital, simplifying and modernizing labor regulations, and lifting barriers to firm entry and exit.

International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
With ECCU economies slowly emerging from the pandemic with scars, the impact of the war in Ukraine is a setback to the nascent recovery. Higher food and energy prices, amid ongoing supply disruptions and intra-regional transportation bottlenecks, are raising inflation, eroding income, lowering output growth, worsening fiscal and external positions, and threatening food and energy security. As a result, inflation is expected to hover over 5½ percent in 2022. Real GDP is projected to grow by 7½ percent in 2022, leaving output still well below the pre-pandemic level. Fiscal deficits are projected to remain sizable, given continued pandemic- and disaster-related spending and temporary support to address rising living costs, thereby keeping gross financing needs and public debt at elevated levels in the near term. The financial system has remained broadly stable so far, with adequate capital and liquidity buffers, but nonperforming loans remain high and could rise further following the expiration of the ECCB’s loan moratoria program. The outlook is subject to large downside risks, primarily from further increases in commodity prices and new COVID variants amid vaccine hesitancy, in addition to the ever-present threat of natural disasters.