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

Abstract

How involved is the IMF in the Pacific?

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

Abstract

Average growth in the small states in the Asia and Pacific region remained weak (1 percent) in 2013 and underperformed that in other small states—2 percent. However, activity within the Asia-Pacific small states was uneven, with commodity exporters growing at the rate of 3 percent which, while robust, was lower than past rates (Figure 1). Economic performance in the microstates (i.e., countries with a population below 200,000—Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu) lagged behind with growth estimated at less than 1 percent. Inflation has remained broadly in check. These countries remain highly vulnerable to natural disasters as shown by the recent cyclones in Tonga and Vanuatu, and severe floods in Solomon Islands.

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

Abstract

Fishing license fees are a major source of revenue in several Pacific island countries (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Tuvalu). In 2013 the fee earnings ranged from 15 percent of total revenues in the Marshall Islands to 65 percent in Kiribati. Despite the large fishery-derived wealth, PICs still have enormous untapped marine resources and further efforts are under way to properly leverage and manage them. First, the ratio of the income PICs receive by selling fishing rights to foreign companies to the value of the fish catch is very low. Second, an improperly designed access right scheme could lead to the overexploitation of marine resources. This would mean a decline in the fish supply (mainly tuna) and, eventually, a depletion of fish stocks, which would undermine fiscal sustainability. Finally, the intrinsic volatility of revenue from fishing license fees poses a challenge for fiscal policy.2

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

Abstract

The work on the small states is an important component of the IMF’s global policy agenda. Among the 36 member countries covered by the IMF Asia and Pacific Department (APD), 13 countries are developing small states—most of which are Pacific islands. As part of APD’s ongoing effort to increase its engagement with regional small states and their development partners and enhance information sharing within the IMF, this issue marks the launch of the APD Small States Monitor, a quarterly bulletin featuring the latest economic developments, country notes from the most recent Article IV staff reports, special topics, past and upcoming events, and forthcoming IMF research on small states. In future issues, we will also host contributions from the authorities of small states and their development partners on key policy topics. Our goal is to exchange knowledge and deepen our understanding of the policy challenges these economies face to better tailor our policy advice.

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

Abstract

Context: The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is going through a period of output fluctuations. The economy expanded in FY2012 by 3.2 percent, supported by export growth, but in FY2013 is estimated to have slowed to 0.8 percent due to the postponement of infrastructure projects. A fiscal deficit of 0.8 percent of GDP was recorded in FY2012 and another deficit of similar magnitude is estimated for FY2013.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Kiribati is a small and fragile state vulnerable to climate change. Record high fishing revenue in recent years has boosted growth, improved the current account, and strengthened the balance of the sovereign wealth fund, the primary vehicle for intergenerational saving. However, fishing revenue has declined in the early months of 2016 and is projected to remain at more modest levels over the medium term. Building fiscal buffers to enhance resilience and continued support from development partners are essential to mitigate downside risks to growth.

International Monetary Fund
Kiribati is a country in the central Pacific Ocean and one of the least-developed Pacific island economies. A large share of imports and government spending is financed from external grants and fishing license fees. The key policy development has been the adoption of a medium-term strategy, which focuses on reducing the role of the public sector to promote the development of the private sector. The improvement in the current and capital account balances has led to an increase in the overall balance.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper focuses on recent developments with Kiribati’s Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF). The paper also examines fiscal aspects of climate change, and considers options for improving fishing license fees, which remain an important source of revenue. It also analyzes recent developments and the outlook for remittances to Kiribati, which is another important source of external revenue and brings important economic benefits, such as reducing poverty and stabilizing national income.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
KEY ISSUES Kiribati’s key economic challenges are to reduce large structural fiscal imbalances and increase growth and employment opportunities, while facing obstacles posed by remoteness, lack of scale, vulnerabilities to external shocks and climate change. The significant fiscal consolidation envisaged by the authorities will help stabilize Kiribati’s sovereign wealth fund (the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund, or RERF) in real per capita terms. This stabilization effort would also require that fishing license fees remain close to recent exceptionally high levels, with windfall incomes relative to the conservative budgeted baseline saved. In the event of weaker fishing license fee revenues, a more ambitious adjustment in the non-fishing budget would be needed. The small private sector share in the economy due to remoteness and weaknesses in business climate constrains growth and puts strain on public finances. Continuing the fiscal and structural reform program is essential. Climate change brings additional risks and fiscal costs. Main Recommendations: • Continue fiscal reforms designed to deliver fiscal consolidation and improved public financial management. Seek to maintain fishing license fees above the current conservative budget baseline, with windfalls saved to strengthen RERF balances. If fishing license fee windfalls cannot be sustained, explore other options to further strengthen fiscal balances. • Continue reforms of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). • Facilitate growth through improving the business climate and infrastructure, including through streamlining government services.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that Kiribati’s economic fundamentals have strengthened in recent years. Strong fishing revenue improved the fiscal position, strengthened the current account, and boosted business confidence. After registering a double-digit rate in 2015, real GDP growth declined to 1.1 percent in 2016, but is projected to pick up to about 3 percent in 2017 driven by construction and wholesale and retail trade. The authorities have made commendable progress in structural reforms. They have implemented important reforms to improve the governance and management of the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund and replenished the fund from the cash reserves. Despite a favorable economic outlook, risks to near-term growth are substantial and skewed to the downside.