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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
The fallout from the COVID-19 crisis is hitting ECCU economies hard. Tourism receipts (accounting for nearly 40 percent of GDP) have dried up, as tourist arrivals have come to a grinding halt. The authorities successfully contained the spread of the virus at the onset of the pandemic by largely closing the borders, but a reopening of the economies since the summer has led to a surge in COVID cases. The ECCU economy is projected to contract by 16 percent in 2020 and by a further near ½ percent in 2021. Fiscal positions have deteriorated sharply, and public debt is projected to reach near 90 percent of GDP in 2021 and remain at an elevated level for years to come. Headline indicators suggest the financial system is relatively sound with ample liquidity buffers, but nonperforming loans are expected to rise significantly. The outlook is clouded by exceptionally high risks, including from the uncertainty concerning the evolution of the pandemic.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This paper presents IMF’s 2019 Discussion on Common Policies of Member Countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). ECCU’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth accelerated from 3/4 percent in 2017 to 3 3/4 percent in 2018, reflecting buoyancy in the tourism sector, sizable Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) inflows, and a recovery from the 2017 hurricanes in Anguilla and Dominica, which were supported by large public investments in reconstruction. Fiscal deficits increased in 2018–2019, but they have remained moderate. Efforts are needed to streamline, and re-balance tax incentives based on clear principles consistent with international best practices. External imbalances are sizable and significant financial sector vulnerabilities affect both banks and non-banks. Growth is projected to gradually moderate toward its long-term average of 2 1/4 percent as the cyclical momentum normalizes and CBI inflows ease. These trends would also contribute to wider fiscal deficits, ending the downward drift in public debt dynamics. The outlook is clouded by downside risks, including a possible intensification of natural disasters and financial sector weaknesses.
Aliona Cebotari and Karim Youssef
Natural disasters are a source of economic risks in many countries, especially in smaller and lower-income states, and ex-ante preparedness is needed to manage the risks. The paper discusses sovereign experience with disaster insurance as a key instrument to mitigate the risks; proposes ways to judge the adequacy of insurance; and considers ways to enhance its use by vulnerable countries. The paper especially aims to inform policy decisions on disaster insurance. Through simulations of natural disasters and various insurance options, we find that sovereign decisions on optimal risk transfer involve balancing trade-offs between growth and debt, based on government risk preferences and country risk exposure. The choice of optimal insurance for smaller countries turns out to be more constrained by cost considerations due to their higher exposure, likely resulting in underinsurance; donor grants could help them achieve a more optimal protection. We also find that optimal insurance packages are those that are least costly relative to expected payouts (i.e. have the lowest insurance multiple), which are also the packages that insure less severe (more frequent) disasters.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2018 discussion on common policies of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) highlights that the member countries are gradually recovering following the catastrophic impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Conditions remain favorable to growth, however, risks are increasing. The fiscal balance for the region as a whole worsened in 2017, reflecting lower inflows from citizenship-by-investment programs and higher reconstruction and current spending. The IMF team made several policy recommendations including shifting focus from the current emphasis on recovery from natural disasters to building ex-ante resilience. The report also recommends intensifying decisive and timely actions to resolve weaknesses in the financial sector, including longstanding problems in the banking sector and emerging risks in the non-banking sector. The authorities expressed commitment to the acceleration of key reforms to upgrade and strengthen the financial sector regional oversight framework. In addition to fiscal consolidation, injecting new vigor into the structural policy agenda will help enhance competitiveness and make growth more inclusive.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Grenada made important strides under the 2014-17 ECF-supported program, achieving an impressive debt reduction by 37 percent of GDP since 2013, upgrading the framework for fiscal policy, strengthening the financial system, improving governance, and creating a better business environment. Nonetheless, public debt is still relatively high, job creation has been insufficient, and the institutional capacity for policy implementation needs strengthening.
Ms. Kimberly Beaton, Ms. Alla Myrvoda, and Shernnel Thompson
This paper assesses the determinants of NPLs in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and whether a deterioration in asset quality may result in negative feedback effects from the banking system to economic activity. The results suggest that the deterioration in asset quality can be attributed to both macroeconomic and bank-specific factors. Banks with stronger profitability and lower exposure to the construction sector and household loans tend to have lower NPLs. Further, some evidence indicates that foreign owned banks systematically have lower NPLs than domestic banks, pointing to the presence of important differences across bank practices with an impact on asset quality. Finally, the results emphasize the strength of macrofinancial feedback loops in the ECCU.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ recovery from the global financial crisis was hampered by a series of natural disasters, sluggish global demand, and slow implementation of key infrastructure projects. Economic activity appears to have recovered in 2015, led by strong tourism inflows and a rebound in construction. Inflation has trended down owing to falling food and fuel prices. The new airport, now foreseen for completion in 2016, is expected to sustain the near- and medium-term economic growth. Real GDP is projected to expand by 2.2 percent in 2016 and reach 3.1 percent over the medium term.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ economic recovery from the global economic crisis has been curbed by a series of significant natural disasters. These, combined with the economic downturn following the global financial crisis, have prevented the economy from returning to its long-term potential real GDP growth. The overall fiscal balance is estimated to have narrowed to 4.75 percent of GDP in 2014. After an estimated 1.1 percent growth rate in 2014, growth is projected to pick up modestly to 2.1 percent in 2015 on improvements in tourism and agriculture and enhanced implementation of much-needed rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
KEY ISSUES Background: Activity is slowly recovering after a cumulative decline of about 5 percent during 2008–10. Expansionary fiscal policies—largely to counteract the impact of the global slowdown and the two successive natural disasters—led to a deterioration in fiscal balances, with public debt up by about 10½ percent of GDP over this period. The fiscal deficit, however, is expected to narrow this year, largely reflecting cuts in capital spending. In the financial sector, non performing loans remain above prudential guidelines; provisioning and profitability are low; and supervision remains weak. Policy Challenges: Further fiscal consolidation—including by rebalancing government expenditure toward growth and employment generating public sector projects—is required to ensure medium-term sustained growth as well as keep public sector debt on a downward trajectory. In this regard, improving the efficiency of revenue collection and reducing current spending—especially on the wage bill, which is high relative to revenues—will be crucial to allow the government to maneuver fiscal policy. Financial sector weaknesses also need to be addressed, including through strengthening of supervisory and regulatory standards, to promote effective financial intermediation that supports private sector growth. Structural reforms, including infrastructure enhancements and labor market reforms are critical to improve competitiveness and ensure medium-term growth and current account sustainability.