Western Hemisphere > Nicaragua

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Ms. Sandra Marcelino and Mariana Sans
This paper studies the drivers of the labor market performance in Nicaragua with a particular focus on informality, to identify vulnerable groups during economic downturns; and estimates the speed of adjustment of employment to shocks. The paper compares this experience with the ones in other CAPDR countries (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama). Our findings are that while the high countercyclical informality in Nicaragua has been the active margin of adjustment during economic downturns mitigating unemployment, the trade-off has been a lower speed of adjustment to shocks hampering the country’s ability to revert to its potential. Policy recommendations relate to mitigating the impact of downturns on employment in Nicaragua, easing adjustments and inequalities in the labor market to hasten the employment recovery and thus, support growth.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Substantial pre-crisis buffers (primarily government deposits), prudent policies, and official external financial assistance helped Nicaragua recover well from a protracted downturn during 2018-2020 caused by the socio-political crisis of 2018, two major hurricanes in 2020, and the pandemic. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 10.3 percent in 2021 and is projected to grow by 4 percent in 2022, despite hurricane Julia that affected the country in October. Inflation on an annual basis reached 11.4 percent in November 2022, mostly due to increases in import prices. The authorities introduced fiscal measures to mitigate the impact of the increases in oil and wheat prices, and also increased the reference interest rate. Bank deposits are growing strongly and reached the pre-crisis level (in Córdobas). Gross international reserves have doubled since end-2018 (to over US$4 billion; about 6 months of imports, excluding maquila).
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Nicaragua faces an acute crisis as the COVID-19 shock comes on top of a two- year recession. So far, the speed of transmission of the pandemic in Nicaragua, in terms of officially confirmed cases, has been slower than in neighboring countries, but this may understate the true spread of the disease. The pandemic is expected to produce the third year of consecutive recession and lead to large fiscal and external financing needs given the impact of voluntary distancing and regional and global spillovers. The very limited fiscal space, eroded by the ongoing recession and the limited external financing, constrains the authorities’ ability to self-finance the emergency response.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation with Nicaragua highlights that social unrest and its aftermath eroded confidence and caused large capital and bank deposits outflows that resulted in a prolonged output contraction. Banks cut lending, which exacerbated the downturn. Faced with sharply lower revenues and a severe tightening in available financing, including on account of sanctions, the government was forced to cut spending and adopt a procyclical tax package. The economy is projected to continue to contract in the near term as it adjusts to weaker confidence and lower external financing. The sharp contraction in credit will continue to depress investment, and the tight fiscal and external financing situation will continue to drag down medium-term growth. The key risks relate to further erosion in confidence and renewed deposit outflows. The imposition of additional sanctions by trading partners could also heighten economic stress. It is recommended to maintain a conservative fiscal stance in 2020 remains the key to maintain macroeconomic stability. Curbing expenditures on goods and services will allow increased spending on social programs, social safety nets, and public investment, which would lead to more equitable and sustainable growth.