Ms. Nita Thacker, Mr. Sebastian Acevedo Mejia, and Mr. Roberto Perrelli
After earlier success, growth performance in most Caribbean countries has been disappointing since the early 1990s. With slower growth, output has fallen behind that of relevant comparator countries. This paper analyzes the growth experience of the Caribbean countries from a cross country perspective. Three findings stand out. First, the slowdown in growth is explained more by a decline in productivity rather than a lack of investment. Second, tourism has been a significant contributor to higher growth (through both capital accumulation and productivity) and lower output volatility, and in many countries there is scope for further expansion of this sector. Third, the small size and the fact that most of these countries are islands have limited growth. Policies aimed at improving productivity, further development of the tourism sector, and regional integration could pay dividends in terms of higher growth in the region.
After skyrocketing over the past decade, commodity prices have remained stable or eased somewhat since mid-2011—and most projections suggest they are not likely to resume the upward trend observed in the last decade. This paper analyzes what this turn in the commodity price cycle may imply for output growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The analysis suggests that growth in the years ahead for the average commodity exporter in the region could be significantly lower than during the commodity boom, even if commodity prices were to remain stable at their current still-high levels. Slower-than-expected growth in China represents a key downside risk. The results caution against trying to offset the current economic slowdown with demand-side stimulus and underscore the need for ambitious structural reforms to secure strong growth over the medium term.
The paper investigates asymmetry in the allocation of aggregate demand shocks between real output growth and price inflation over the business cycle in a sample of fifteen Caribbean countries. In most countries, the evidence indicates the existence of structural constraints, implying that positive demand shocks feed predominantly into prices while negative demand shocks mainly affect output. The high variability of aggregate demand in Caribbean countries, frequently exposed to shocks that are exacerbated by pro-cyclical policy stance, tends to create an upward bias on inflation and a downward bias on real output growth, on average, over time. The analysis highlights the benefits of eliminating structural rigidities responsible for asymmetric real and inflationary effects and points to the dangers of procyclical macroeconomic policies that exacerbate the adverse effects of demand variability.
Mr. Sebastian Sosa, Ms. Evridiki Tsounta, and Miss Marie S Kim
A favorable external environment coupled with prudent policies fostered output growth in most of Latin America during the last decade. But, what were the drivers of this strong growth performance from the supply side and will this momentum be sustainable in the years ahead? We address these questions by identifying the proximate causes of the recent high GDP growth and estimating potential growth rates for the period ahead for a large group of Latin American countries based on standard (Solow-style) growth accounting methodologies. We find that factor accumulation (especially labor), rather than growth in total factor productivity (TFP), remains the main driver of GDP growth. Moving forward, given the expected moderation of capital accumulation and some natural constraints on labor, the strong growth momentum is unlikely to be sustainable unless TFP performance improves significantly.
Ms. Helene Poirson Ward, Mr. Luca A Ricci, and Ms. Catherine A Pattillo
This paper investigates the channels through which debt affects growth, specifically whether debt affects growth through factor accumulation or total factor productivity growth. It also tests for the presence of nonlinearities in the effects of debt on the different sources of growth. We use a large panel dataset of 61 developing countries over the period 1969-98. Results indicate that the negative impact of high debt on growth operates both through a strong negative effect on physical capital accumulation and on total factor productivity growth. On average, for high-debt countries, doubling debt will reduce output growth by about 1 percentage point and reduce both per capita physical capital and total factor productivity growth by somewhat less than that. In terms of the contributions to growth, approximately one-third of the effect of debt on growth occurs via physical capital accumulation and two-thirds via total factor productivity growth. The results are generally robust to the use of alternative estimators to control (to different extents) for biases associated with unobserved country-specific effects and the endogeneity of several regressors, particularly the debt variables. In particular, the results are shown to be compatible with a simultaneous significant effect of growth on debt ratios, as suggested by Easterly (2001).
Fiscal sustainability remains a paramount challenge for small economies with high debt and greater vulnerability to climate change. This paper applies the model-based sustainability test for fiscal policy in a panel of 16 Caribbean countries during the period 1980–2018. The results indicate that the coefficient on lagged government debt is positive and statistically significant, implying that fiscal policy in the Caribbean takes corrective actions to counteract an increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio. Nonlinear estimations, however, show that the quadratic debt parameter is negative, which indicates that fiscal policy response is not adequate to ensure sustainability at higher levels of debt. We also find that the fiscal stance tends to be countercyclical on average during the sample period. These empirical results confirm that maintaining prudent fiscal policies and implementing growth-enhancing structural reforms are necessary to build fiscal buffers and ensure debt sustainability with high probability even when negative shocks occur over the long term.
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