International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that Kiribati’s recent economic performance has been strong. Growth is estimated to have reached 3.5 percent in 2015, supported by record-high fishing revenue, donor-financed infrastructure projects, and reconstruction in the aftermath of cyclone Pam. The fiscal position has improved markedly in recent years. High fishing revenue contributed to a recurrent fiscal balance of almost 50 percent of GDP in 2015, more than offsetting the increase in recurrent government spending of 13 percent. Growth is projected to moderate somewhat to about 3 percent in 2016, while inflation remains subdued owing to low food and commodity prices.
Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello, Ezequiel Cabezon, and Mr. Yiqun Wu
The small states of the Asia and Pacific region face unique challenges in raising their growth potential and living standards relative to other small states due to their small populations, geographical isolation and dispersion, narrow export and production bases, exposure to shocks, and heavy reliance on aid. Higher fixed government costs, low access to credit by the private sector, and capacity constraints are also key challenges. The econometric analysis confirms that the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have underperformed relative to their peers over the last 20 years. Although these countries often face more limited policy tools, policies do matter and can further help build resilience and raise potential growth, as evidenced in the recent business cycle. The Asia and Pacific small states should continue rebuilding buffers and improve the composition of public spending in order to foster inclusive growth. Regional solutions should also continue to be pursued.
The staff report highlights that the economy of Kiribati showed resilience from the global crisis owing to infrastructure projects financed by foreign assistance. Executive Directors stressed the importance of preserving real per capita value of the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund to ensure fiscal sustainability and intergenerational fairness. They appreciated the multiyear budget framework, which helped in designing realistic fiscal plans. Directors noted the joint IMF-World Bank debt sustainability analysis and encouraged authorities to secure grant financing to support the country’s development needs.
This Selected Issues paper focuses on recent developments with Kiribati’s Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF). The paper also examines fiscal aspects of climate change, and considers options for improving fishing license fees, which remain an important source of revenue. It also analyzes recent developments and the outlook for remittances to Kiribati, which is another important source of external revenue and brings important economic benefits, such as reducing poverty and stabilizing national income.