Mr. David Robinson, Mr. Paul Cashin, and Ms. Ratna Sahay
This book sets out the economic challenges facing the island nations of the Caribbean and presents policy options to ameliorate external shocks and embark firmly on a sustained growth path. While the countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union that are the focus of the book have enjoyed a sustained period of price and exchange rate stability, they have been buffeted in recent years by adverse shocks, including the erosion of trade preferences, declines in official foreign assistance, and frequent natural disasters. Strengthening their growth performance will require design of a multifaceted strategy that integrates the Caribbean with the global economy, facilitates an economic transformation from agriculture to tourism, fosters greater regional cooperation, and preserves macroeconomic stability. This volume examines the critical issues that are part of that process, including fiscal and financial sector policy, management of external flows, trade integration and tourism, macroeconomic cycles and volatility, and the economic implications of natural disasters.
This Selected Issues paper on the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) underlies key features of business cycles. To obtain new measures of classical and growth cycles, simple rules were applied to date turning points in the classical business cycle, and a recently developed frequency domain filter was used to estimate the growth cycle. At the regional level, the ECCU countries are facing two shocks, i.e., the depreciation of the U.S. dollar and the depreciation of the Dominican Republic’s peso. The countries of the ECCU have experienced modest erosion in their price and nonprice competitiveness.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the competitive threats to the tourism sector in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The paper concludes that the ECCU countries have lost competitiveness globally and vis-à-vis newly emergent Caribbean tourist destinations as a result of both price and nonprice factors. The short-term measures implemented by the countries seem to have been insufficient to prevent further declines in 2002. The paper also describes strengthening fiscal discipline through fiscal benchmarks.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the income dispersion and comovement in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union region. It finds that incomes are diverging, with the Leeward Islands converging to a higher income level than the Windward Islands. The paper examines the macroeconomic impact of trade preference erosion on the Windward Islands and demonstrates the substantial impact from preference erosion on growth, trade balances, and fiscal positions. The paper also analyzes the size of the informal economy in the Caribbean.
This paper provides the joint assessment of the staff of the World Bank and the IMF on the interim poverty reduction strategy paper (I-PRSP) prepared by the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica and submitted to the World Bank and the IMF. The preparation of this I-PRSP—the later full PRSP—is intended to provide a framework for assistance under the poverty reduction and growth facility. The authorities have consented to the publication of both the I-PRSP and the joint staff assessment (JSA).
Despite the increasing interest in universal health care, little is known about the optimal way to finance, design, and implement it. This paper attempts to fill this gap by providing some general policy recommendations on this important issue. While most of the paper addresses the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) countries, its policy implications are applicable to any country. The paper finds that the best financing option is country-specific depending on a country’s economic, cultural, institutional, demographic and epidemiological characteristics, as well as political economy considerations. However, taxation should be the primary financing source. It also concludes that an appropriate and realistic benefit package would need to be designed to ensure the system’s financial viability. Regarding the optimal way to implement universal health care, certain preconditions are needed, including sound public administration, a small informal economy, and a transparent health financing system that builds social consensus.
The demographic transition in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) now underway is rapid compared with international experience, and emigration is playing a particularly large role. This paper describes and quantifies several factors which could magnify the challenge of pension reform. First, for some ECCU countries, continued emigration at historical rates would considerably advance the projected date at which pension scheme assets are depleted. Second, there is a significant risk that assets will underperform, given the large exposures to the highly-leveraged public sector and to a lesser extent the record with private sector investments. Third, portfolio diversification away from the public sector could be complicated by age-related pressure for greater central government health spending.
Each year natural disasters affect about 200 million people and cause about $50 billion in damage. This paper compares the incidence of natural disasters across countries along several dimensions and finds that the relative costs tend to be far higher in developing countries than in advanced economies. The analysis shows that small island states are especially vulnerable, with the countries of the Eastern Caribbean standing out as among the most disaster-prone in the world. Natural disasters are found to have had a discernible macroeconomic impact, including large effects on fiscal and external balances, pointing to an important role for precautionary measures.