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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.
Rodrigo Cubero and Ivanna Vladkova Hollar
How does fiscal policy fare in improving the underlying income distribution in Central America? We integrate the data from a number of existing tax and public expenditure studies for the countries in the region and find that the distributional effect of taxation is regressive but small. In contrast, the redistributive impact of social spending is large and progressive, leading to a progressive net redistributive effect in all countries of the region. We also show that raising tax revenues and devoting the proceeds to social spending would unambiguously improve the income of the poorest households.
Torsten Wezel
This paper investigates the efficiency of domestic and foreign banks in the Central American region during 2002-07. Using two main empirical approaches, Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis, the paper finds that foreign banks are not necessarily more efficient than their domestic counterparts. If anything, the regional banks that were acquired by global banks in a wave of acquisitions during 2005-07 can keep up with the local institutions. The efficiency of these acquired banks, however, is shown to have dropped during the acquisition year, recovering only slightly thereafter. Finally, it is important to account for the environment in which banks operate, as country-, sector- and firm-specific characteristics are found to have a considerable influence on bank efficiency.
Mr. Shaun K. Roache
The economies of Central America share a close relationship with the United States, with considerable comovement of GDP growth over a long period of time. Trade, the financial sector, and remittance flows are all potential channels through which the U.S. cycle could affect the region. But just how dependent is growth in the region on the U.S.? Using the common cycles method of Vahid and Engle (1993), this paper suggests that the business cycle is dominated by the U.S.; region-specific growth drivers tend to be long-lasting shocks, rather than temporary fluctuations. The most cyclically sensitive countries include Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Luis René Cáceres and Nolvia Nery Saca
Family remittances are important for El Salvador's economy. This paper analyzes the impact of remittances on El Salvador's economy and the spillover effects on the other Central American countries. A vector autoregression (VAR) model is formulated, consisting of real and monetary variables. The results suggest that in, El Salvador, remittances lead to decreases in economic activity, international reserves, and money supply and increases in the interest rate, imports, and consumer prices. This underscores the need for reorienting economic policy in El Salvador to promote the use of remittances in capital formation activities to maximize the benefit of remittances.
International Monetary Fund

Abstract

Intraregional financial activity in Central America has grown substantially in the past decade, contributing to efficiency and economic development. At the same time, the expansion of activities by regional conglomerates has increased the challenges to supervisory authorities of containing the risks of contagion. Prepared as part of the Central America Financial Sector Regional Project by an IMF and World Bank staff team, this book outlines trends in the region's financial sector integration, supervisory responses, development of the insurance sector, payment and securities settlement arrangements, and worker remittances. It addresses the many common policy challenges facing Central American countries--Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama--in financial sector reform. The book offers key policy recommendations.

Mr. Jorge I Canales Kriljenko, Padamja Khandelwal, and Mr. Alexander Lehmann
We assess the current barriers to trade in financial services in the six Central American countries seeking a free trade agreement with the United States (the CAFTA) and examine the relative merits of regional and multilateral liberalization. Even though there are few formal barriers, deficiencies in regulatory and competition standards and in the judicial systems still restrict the participation of foreign institutions in the financial systems in the region. A greater presence of such institutions could support other objectives of trade and investment liberalization, though it would require several adjustments in prudential supervision at national levels and greater cooperation between members of the CAFTA.
International Monetary Fund
This paper examines Guatemala’s Request for a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The authorities are requesting a 12-month SBA in an amount equivalent to SDR 84 million (40 percent of quota) to support an economic program aimed at reducing the fiscal deficit and restructuring the financial system, while sustaining higher outlays on social and basic infrastructure as called for by the Peace Accords. The program assumes an acceleration of real GDP growth to 2.25 percent and a reduction in inflation to a 4–6 percent range.
International Monetary Fund
The paper presents statistical data on comparative social indicators, selected economic indicators, selected national accounts aggregates, summary expenditure and savings, summary consumer price indices, summary operations of the combined public sector, and summary of central government operations of Guatemala. The data on real gross domestic expenditure, labor productivity indicators, trends in unit labor costs, real wages, productivity, and employment, nonfinancial public sector operations, summary accounts of the financial system, detailed balance of payments, and imports by origin, and related economic indices are also presented.