International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Barbados has made good progress in implementing its Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, rebuild reserves, and increase growth. International reserves have increased to US$1.3 billion at end-March 2021, supported by IFI loans. This, and a successful 2018-19 public debt restructuring, have helped rebuild confidence in the country’s macroeconomic framework. However, a virtual standstill in the tourism sector during the pandemic took a significant toll in 2020, with the economy contracting by 18 percent. While Barbados was successful in containing the outbreak during 2020, a surge in COVID-19 cases in early 2021 resulted in the country’s second national lockdown in February. Economic growth is projected at 3 percent for 2021 premised on a modest recovery of tourism in the second half of the year, but the outlook remains highly uncertain, and risks are elevated, also in light of the possible impact of recent volcanic activity in neighboring Saint Vincent.
Charles Cohen, S. M. Ali Abbas, Myrvin Anthony, Tom Best, Mr. Peter Breuer, Hui Miao, Ms. Alla Myrvoda, and Eriko Togo
The COVID-19 crisis may lead to a series of costly and inefficient sovereign debt restructurings. Any such restructurings will likely take place during a period of great economic uncertainty, which may lead to protracted negotiations between creditors and debtors over recovery values, and potentially even relapses into default post-restructuring. State-contingent debt instruments (SCDIs) could play an important role in improving the outcomes of these restructurings.
There have been significant developments in sovereign debt restructuring involving private-sector creditors since the IMF’s last stocktaking in 2014.
While the current contractual approach has been largely effective in resolving sovereign debt cases since 2014, it has gaps that could pose challenges in future restructurings.
Myrvin Anthony, Gregorio Impavido, and Mr. Bert van Selm
This paper examines the causes, processes, and outcomes of Barbados’ 2018–19 sovereign debt restructuring—its first ever. The restructuring was comprehensive, featuring several rarely used approaches, including the restructuring of treasury bills, and the use of a retrofitted collective action mechanism. The debt restructuring has helped to set Barbados’ public debt on a clear downward trajectory. A sustained reform effort, maintaining high primary surpluses and ambitious structural reforms, will be needed to gradually reduce public debt from about 160 percent of GDP before the restructuring to the country’s 60 percent debt-to-GDP target.