Asia and Pacific > Tonga

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Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur
This paper proposes an easy-to-follow approach to track merchandise trade using vessel data and applies it to Pacific island countries. Pacific islands rely heavily on imports and maritime transport for trade. They are also highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters that pose risks to ports and supply chains. Using satellite-based vessel tracking data from the UN Global Platform, we construct daily indicators of port and trade activity for Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses to shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
Mr. Richard I Allen, Ms. Majdeline El Rayess, Laura Doherty, and Priya Goel
This paper reviews the Public Financial Management (PFM) reform stategy for 16 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) during the period 2010-2020. The strategy was endorsed by the finance and economic ministers of the region (FEMM) in 2010. The paper analyzes more than 30 PEFA assessments carried out across the region. The region shares the generally slow pace of PFM reform that is also a feature of most developing countries. Some PICs have improved their PFM performance significantly, while others have done less well. PFM reforms have suffered from the small size and low capacity of many PICs, poorly designed PFM roadmaps, variable political suppport for reform, and vulnerability to natural disasters. The paper recommends that in the next five years, there should be a more granular and targeted approch to PEFAs. PICs should focus on basic PFM reforms and (where capacities allow) more transparent public finances, as well as better management of climate change considerations, public infrastructure, gender inequalities, and state-owned enterprises. Perseverance by countries in implementing reforms and leadership by finance ministries are critical. PFTAC’s advice is highly regarded across the region, and it could consider alternative modalities of CD delivery and stronger coordination with other development partners.
Ryota Nakatani
A big challenge for the economic development of small island countries is dealing with external shocks. The Pacific Islands are vulnerable to natural disasters, climate change, commodity price changes, and uncertain donor grants. The question that arises is how should small developing countries formulate a fiscal policy to achieve economic stability and fiscal sustainability when prone to various shocks? We study how natural disasters affect long-term debt dynamics and propose fiscal policy rules that could help insulate the economy from such unexpected shocks. We propose fiscal rules to address these shocks and uncertainties using the example of Papua New Guinea. Our study finds the advantages of expenditure rules, especially a recurrent expenditure rule based on non-resource and non-grant revenue, interdependently determined by government debt and budget balance targets with expected disaster shocks. This paper contributes to the literature and policy dialogue by theoretically analyzing the impact of natural disasters on debt sustainability and proposing fiscal rules against natural disasters and climate changes. Our fiscal policy framework is practically applicable for many developing countries facing increasing frequency and impact of natural disasters and climate change. Our rules-based fiscal framework is crucial for sustainable and countercyclical macroeconomic policies to build resilience against devastating natural hazards.
Hidetaka Nishizawa, Mr. Scott Roger, and Huan Zhang
Pacific island countries (PICs) are vulnerable severe natural disasters, especially cyclones, inflicting large losses on their economies. In the aftermath of disasters, PIC governments face revenue losses and spending pressures to address post-disaster relief and recovery efforts. This paper estimates the effects of severe natural disasters on fiscal revenues and expenditure in PICs. These are combined with information on the frequency of large disasters to calculate the rate of budgetary savings needed to build appropriate fiscal buffers. Fiscal buffers provide self-insurance against natural disaster shocks and facilitate quick disbursement for recovery and relief efforts, and protection of spending on essential services and infrastructure. The estimates can provide a benchmark for policymakers, and should be adjusted to take into account other sources of financing, as well as budget risks from less severe as well as more frequent disasters.
Hoe Ee Khor, Mr. Roger P. Kronenberg, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello

Abstract

Pacific island countries face unique challenges to realizing their growth potential and raising living standards. This book discusses ongoing challenges facing Pacific island countries and policy options to address them. Regional cooperation and solutions tailored to their unique challenges, as well as further integration with the Asia and Pacific region will each play a role. With concerted efforts, Pacific island countries can boost potential growth, increase resilience, and improve the welfare of their citizens.

Ms. Shari Boyce, Mr. Sergei Dodzin, Ezequiel Cabezon, Mr. Fazurin Jamaludin, Mr. Yiqun Wu, and Ms. Rosanne Heller

Abstract

This issue of the Asia & Pacific Small States Monitor focuses on the challenges facing Asia and Pacific small states associated with natural disasters and climate change. Most tourism-oriented economies experienced a robust increase in arrivals, partly reflecting country-specific factors. Among commodity exporters (Bhutan, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste) and other Asia and Pacific small states, growth remains uneven: robust activity in Bhutan was driven mainly by hydropower-related construction activities; Solomon Islands experienced a continuing decline of logging stocks and a short-term disruption of gold production; and Timor-Leste’s ongoing depletion of oil reserves has led to a tighter budget constraint and lower government spending in the non-oil sector.

Mr. Christian Mumssen, Yasemin Bal Gunduz, Mr. Christian H Ebeke, and Ms. Linda Kaltani
This paper studies the short and longer-term impact of IMF engagement in Low-Income Countries (LICs) over nearly three decades. In contrast to earlier studies, we focus on a sample composed exclusively of LICs and disentangle the different effects of IMF longer-term engagement and short-term financing using a propensity score matching approach to control for selection bias. Our results indicate that longer-term IMF support (at least five years of program engagement per decade) helped LICs sustain economic growth and boost resilience by building fiscal buffers. Interestingly, the size of IMF financing has no significant impact on economic growth, possibly pointing to the prominent role of IMF policy advice and institutional capacity building in the context of longer-term engagement. We also present evidence that the short-term IMF engagement through augmentations of existing programs or short-term and emergency facilities is positively associated with a wide range of macroeconomic outcomes. Notably, the IMF financial support has the greatest impact on short-term growth when LICs are faced with substantial macroeconomic imbalances or exogenous shocks.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This staff report on Tonga’s 2013 Article IV Consultation discusses the economic development and policies. Banks in Tonga have been fixing their balance sheets since late 2008. Shrinking the loan books and increasing holdings of reserve assets have prompted negative macro-financial linkages, and reduced business confidence. In response, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga has aggressively infused liquidity into the system, and stepped up risk-based supervision. Progress in improving the regulatory and institutional infrastructure has also continued, including inauguration of a credit bureau. Major gains have been made in budget transparency, the establishment of a Treasury Single Account system, and better prioritization of the budget.
International Monetary Fund
In Tonga, the fiscal position has strengthened but vulnerabilities remain. Directors have welcomed Tonga’s recovery from the global crisis but noted remaining vulnerabilities and a high debt burden. With downside risks clouding the outlook, Directors have emphasized the importance of strengthening policy buffers and the foundation for faster and more inclusive growth. Directors have also encouraged the authorities to implement their fiscal plans within a medium-term framework and to improve further the quality of public spending to meet Tonga’s development objectives.
Mr. Benedicte Baduel and Mr. Robert T Price
The Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) for low-income countries (LICs) is a standardized analytical tool to monitor debt sustainability. This paper uses DSAs from three periods around the time of the global economic crisis to analyze the projected trajectories of debt ratios for a sample of LICs. The aggregate data suggest that LIC vulnerabilities improved on the whole during the period prior to the crisis, and that the crisis had a strong short-run impact on key ratios of debt (debt-to-GDP, -exports, and -fiscal revenues) and debt service (debt service-to-exports, and -revenues). Although projected debt burdens increased following the crisis, debt indicators tend to return to their pre-crisis levels over the projection horizon. This may reflect a strong and durable policy response by LICs towards the crisis, or also reflect specific assumptions on the long-run growth dividends of public external debt.