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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Guatemala has managed to keep infections and deaths moderate during the pandemic. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been mild given an early reopening of the economy, unprecedented policy support, and resilient remittances and exports. However, despite large-scale government interventions to support households, poverty and malnutrition have deteriorated following COVID-19 and the two major hurricanes battering Guatemala last November.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Fundamentals remain strong and growth has revived after three years of subpar performance. Improved budgetary execution and monetary accommodation, broadly in line with past staff advice, are providing demand support as the economy navigates weaker terms of trade. Near-term growth is poised for a rebound on the back of fiscal impulse from the 2019 expansionary budget, exports recovery after last year’s slump, and construction-driven investment. Lack of progress on long-delayed business climate and public sector reforms, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, and financial inclusion, dampen medium-term prospects.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation discusses that structural reforms, strengthened policy frameworks and the ongoing smooth political transition have laid the foundations for sustained growth in El Salvador. The discussions focused on policies that build on these achievements and address fiscal vulnerabilities, boost long-term growth, and strengthen the governance, anticorruption and Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism frameworks. Continued US dollar appreciation led to a significant decline in inflation and widening of the current account deficit. The authorities agreed that debt would continue to drift upward in the absence of measures, and that weaker-than-expected global growth could have a negative impact on the domestic economy. The authorities emphasized their commitment to guarantee a smooth political transition by sharing information with the new administration and by inviting the Audit Office to oversee the handover process. It is recommended to improve the governance and anticorruption frameworks by increasing the fiscal transparency of the 2020 budget laws, strengthening audit and spending controls, and promptly implementing electronic invoicing.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes remittances and households’ behavior in Guatemala. Remittances are a structural feature of the Guatemala economy. In 2017, remittance flows accounted for over 11 percent of GDP and benefitted over 1.5 million of Guatemalan households. The effects of remittances on the labor supply are estimated. There is no evidence of remittance-induced work disincentives. The results suggest that the labor supply for members of remittance-receiving households is relatively more elastic, most markedly so for the 41-65 age group: a one percent increase in weekly wages leads to a 0.5 percent increase in weekly hours worked for members of remittance-receiving households, versus 0.2 percent increase for non-remittance-receiving households.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that a sound monetary policy management in Guatemala has helped keep inflation expectations firmly anchored. Fiscal deficits have remained at decade lows on the back of low debt tolerance and inadequate budgetary execution. Terms of trade gains and an upsurge in remittances inflows moved the current account into a sizable surplus. The financial system is sound and well-regulated while vulnerabilities seem manageable. Growth performance nevertheless falls shorts of the rates needed to achieve Guatemala’s aspirations to meaningfully lift the living standards of its citizens. Near-term growth prospects remain subdued, at 3.2 percent in 2018 and 3.6 percent in 2019.
International Monetary Fund. Fiscal Affairs Dept.
This paper discusses key findings of the Fiscal Transparency Evaluation report on Guatemala. Guatemala has transparency practices that achieve the ratings of basic, good, and advanced regarding three-quarters of the principles established in the IMF’s Fiscal Transparency Code. The wealth of information available and the systems in place related to the public sector’s execution of its budget, finances, and accounts allow for easy access by the population to an impressive volume of fiscal data. However, there is much room for improvement in the area of fiscal transparency. Establishing a new fiscal pact in which the medium-term fiscal targets are defined would help create fiscal predictability and ensure that the major challenges of social and economic development are met.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper estimates potential output growth and the output gap for Guatemala. Potential output growth averaged 4.4 percent just before the global financial crisis but has since declined to 3.75 percent owing to lower capital accumulation and total factor productivity (TFP) growth. It is estimated at 3.8 percent in 2016, and the output gap has virtually closed. Potential growth is expected to reach 4 percent in the medium term owing to the expected improvements in TFP growth. Policies should also prioritize mobilizing domestic savings to invest and build a higher capital stock.
International Monetary Fund. Statistics Dept.
This paper discusses the key findings of the report on statistics technical assistance (TA) and training evaluation mission on Guatemala. It is observed that overall users trust macroeconomic statistics in Guatemala. Data-producing agencies viewed TA and training provided by Statistics Department, IMF during 1998–2015 as most effective to improving the quality of statistics. There is broad recognition of the Bank of Guatemala’s key role in producing and disseminating statistics. There was consensus that TA and training were effective and helped enhance data quality of all datasets, but to a modest extent Government Finance Statistics and Producer Price Index. The effectiveness of TA largely depends on capacity built in the main data-producing agencies.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
KEY ISSUES Context. Guatemala’s economy has performed solidly since the 2008–09 crisis. Output has converged to potential, inflation is under control, and macroeconomic policies remain prudent. However, risks to the outlook are tilted downwards, while buffers are modest and space for counter-cyclical policies is thin. Long-term inclusive growth is constrained by low investment in physical and human capital, institutional weaknesses, and lack of security. Near-term policies are broadly appropriate. With the output gap closed, the broadly neutral fiscal stance is adequate. The monetary stance is slightly expansionary, but inflation is at the bottom of the target range. The authorities should stand ready to tighten monetary policy if inflationary pressures re-emerge. Fiscal sustainability should be enhanced over the medium term. Though the debt-to- GDP ratio remains moderate, the ability to implement counter-cyclical fiscal policies is limited, not least by Guatemala’s high government debt-to-revenue ratio. Debt stabilization requires moderate tightening of the budgetary stance over the medium term. The emphasis should be on revenue mobilization, given the overall low level of spending. Consolidating gains from the 2012 tax reform, which has so far proved disappointing, will be critical. Efforts to upgrade the monetary and exchange policy framework should continue. Anchoring low and stable inflation will require measures to bolster monetary policy transmission, including by expanding exchange rate flexibility. This should provide an additional shock absorber and reduce incentives for dollarization. It would also establish the inflation target as the undisputed primary objective of the central bank. Further strengthening of the financial system is necessary. The 2014 FSAP update found that Guatemala has made significant progress in financial regulation and that the banking system appears to be generally sound. However, efforts are still needed to improve consolidated supervision and the regulation of off-shore banks. The time is also ripe for a phased move to Basel III standards. Structural reforms are vital to achieving long-term inclusive growth. Paving the way towards high, inclusive growth will depend upon raising the low tax-to-GDP ratio to support priority public spending, thereby addressing critical social and developmental needs.