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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

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

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.

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

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.

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. Asia and Pacific Dept
KEY ISSUES Context. Donor-financed large infrastructure projects, increased public spending, and a pick-up in credit to households have boosted real GDP growth to close to 4 percent in 2014 and to about 3 percent in 2015. Inflation remains low, underpinned by lower food and commodity prices. Steps are being taken to reduce the many hurdles to private growth that Kiribati faces, among which are high transportation and communication costs and an increasing impact of climate change. Fiscal policy. The fiscal outlook has improved, but further efforts are needed to ensure sustainability. The recurrent balance was in large surplus in 2014 and is expected to remain positive in 2015, reflecting high revenue from license fees, and notwithstanding a large increase in expenditures. But under the historic pace of spending the sovereign wealth fund (Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund—RERF) would be depleted in about 20 years. Ensuring sustainability requires containing nominal expenditure growth to around 1½ per annum over the next five years (after accommodating climate-change-related costs), with transparent and symmetric transfers and withdrawals from the RERF around this path. Structural reforms. There is a consensus among donors that significant progress has been achieved. The State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) Reform Act is being implemented in a satisfactory way, as illustrated by the recent successful privatization of the telecommunication company. Key outstanding issues include further reforming the energy and copra sectors and improving the investment climate.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Kiribati is one of the poorest and most remote microstates in the Pacific. It is highly dependent on volatile fishing license fees, remittances, and donor assistance. The challenge is to implement fiscal and structural reforms to help ensure fiscal sustainability, promote private sector development, and increase its resilience to external shocks. Fully using its marine potential beyond fishing license fees will help to improve fiscal revenues and growth opportunities. More generally, private sector development is critical for both increasing growth and reducing fiscal pressures.
International Monetary Fund
The staff report highlights that the economy of Kiribati showed resilience from the global crisis owing to infrastructure projects financed by foreign assistance. Executive Directors stressed the importance of preserving real per capita value of the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund to ensure fiscal sustainability and intergenerational fairness. They appreciated the multiyear budget framework, which helped in designing realistic fiscal plans. Directors noted the joint IMF-World Bank debt sustainability analysis and encouraged authorities to secure grant financing to support the country’s development needs.
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.