Caribbean economies face high and rising debt-to-GDP ratios that jeopardize prospects for medium-term debt sustainability and growth. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the challenges of fiscal consolidation and debt reduction in the Caribbean. It examines the problem of high debt in the region and discusses policy options for improving debt sustainability, including fiscal consolidation, robust growth, and structural reforms. The book also examines empirically the factors underlying global large debt reduction episodes to draw important policy lessons for the Caribbean. It also reviews the literature on successful fiscal consolidation experiences and provides an overview of past and current consolidation efforts in the Caribbean. The book concludes that the region needs a broad and sustained package of reforms to reduce debt ratios to more manageable levels and strengthen economic resilience.
The Caribbean has a track record of high fiscal deficits, partly reflecting procyclical fiscal policies in good times. This has resulted in elevated levels of public-debt-to-GDP ratios since 1990. The predominant source of the budget imbalance is the central governments, even though public enterprises have also contributed significantly to the debt buildup. The debt accumulation stems from countercyclical fiscal policy in bad times and procyclical fiscal policy during periods of economic boom. The net result is that debt which has accumulated during periods of weak growth is not offset in good times, resulting in higher levels of debt in the medium term (Egert, 2011).
A number of governments across the world have adopted fiscal policy rules, especially against the backdrop of worsening fiscal performances and rising debt levels. Recently, following the financial crisis, fiscal rules have been advocated to support fiscal consolidation efforts and to ensure long-term sustainability of government finances. This chapter empirically analyzes the impacts of fiscal rules on fiscal performance in microstates with a focus on the Caribbean, where fiscal consolidation has been a major challenge. Broadly, we address three questions. Are there fiscal rules in microstates in general, and in the Caribbean in particular? If the answer is yes, what types of rules exist and what are their characteristics? Is the existence of fiscal rules in microstates associated with improved fiscal performance?