This Selected Issues paper focuses on the prospects of growth in São Tomé and Príncipe (STP). This case study seeks explanations for STP’s relative under-performance and draws lessons for the future. It compares past economic developments in the islands and recommends policies that could most effectively foster future growth in STP. Country-specific characteristics as well as weak institutions contributed to STP’s relative underperformance since independence. Initial conditions, particularly regarding human capital and natural resources, contributed to STP’s relative underperformance, especially in the first decade after independence. Experience in the four island-states suggests that fiscal discipline, revenue mobilization, and a more active private sector, particularly in the tourism sector, may be key to tap STP’s growth potential. Fiscal discipline is needed to contain the fiscal deficit and bring the debt to a sustainable level. Continuing to strengthen public financial management, including implementing multiannual fiscal framework as recommended by the IMF technical assistance, would help.
Arnold McIntyre, Mike Xin Li, Ke Wang, and Hanlei Yun
The paper considers concepts of economic diversification with respect to exports (including service sectors) for small states. We assessed the economic performance of different groups of 34 small states over the period of 1990-2015 and found those more diversified experienced lower output volatility and higher average growth than most other small states. Our findings are consistent with conventional economic theories but we found that export diversification has a more significant impact on reducing output volatility than improving long run growth in small states. Diversification requires fundamental changes and should be contemplated in the context of a cohesive development strategy.