This Selected Issues paper focuses on the reasons for the historically weak performance of Vanuatu. Among the key factors, growth has been hindered by substantial barriers to private sector development. Impediments include political uncertainty, high costs of doing business, poor and costly infrastructure, incomplete secured transactions framework, and weak land and property rights. Although these problems are not uncommon in the Pacific island region, Vanuatu’s progress in these structural reforms has been particularly slow, deterring foreign investment and reducing external competitiveness.
This Selected Issues paper on Samoa reviews limitations to the existing framework of monetary policy, and suggests ways to improve its effectiveness. It examines current instruments at the disposal of the central bank to conduct monetary policy, before showing why monetary policy execution can be sometimes difficult. It also shows that such problems are not uncommon in economies with shallow financial markets. The paper also takes stock of developments since the early 1990s, and asks what major impediments to sustained private development remain.
Mr. Jonathan C Dunn, Mr. Matt Davies, Yongzheng Yang, Mr. Yiqun Wu, and Mr. Shengzu Wang
During the global financial crisis, central banks in Pacific island countries eased monetary policy to stimulate economic activity. Judging by the ensuing movements in commercial bank interest rates and private sector credit, monetary policy transmission appears to be weak. This is confirmed by an empirical examination of interest rate pass-through and credit growth. Weak credit demand and underdeveloped financial markets seem to have limited the effectiveness of monetary policy, but the inflexibility of exchange rates and rising real interest rates have also served to frustrate the central banks’ efforts despite a supporting fiscal policy. While highlighting the importance of developing domestic financial markets in the long run, this experience also points to the need to coordinate macroeconomic policies and to use all macroeconomic tools available in conducting countercyclical policies, including exchange rate flexibility.
A big challenge for the economic development of small island countries is dealing with external shocks. The Pacific Islands are vulnerable to natural disasters, climate change, commodity price changes, and uncertain donor grants. The question that arises is how should small developing countries formulate a fiscal policy to achieve economic stability and fiscal sustainability when prone to various shocks? We study how natural disasters affect long-term debt dynamics and propose fiscal policy rules that could help insulate the economy from such unexpected shocks. We propose fiscal rules to address these shocks and uncertainties using the example of Papua New Guinea. Our study finds the advantages of expenditure rules, especially a recurrent expenditure rule based on non-resource and non-grant revenue, interdependently determined by government debt and budget balance targets with expected disaster shocks. This paper contributes to the literature and policy dialogue by theoretically analyzing the impact of natural disasters on debt sustainability and proposing fiscal rules against natural disasters and climate changes. Our fiscal policy framework is practically applicable for many developing countries facing increasing frequency and impact of natural disasters and climate change. Our rules-based fiscal framework is crucial for sustainable and countercyclical macroeconomic policies to build resilience against devastating natural hazards.
Pacific island countries are exposed to significant risks from natural disasters. As a
disaster relief measure, Fiji allowed pre-retirement pension withdrawls in the wake of
Cyclone Winston in 2016. Motivated by this policy action, we provide a normative
analysis of the use of early pension withdrawals after disasters, by setting up a life-cycle
saving model with myopic households facing large natural disaster shocks. The model
demonstrates the key trade-off between building up sufficient retirement savings and
ensuring the access to savings against natural disaster shocks, and sheds light on welfare
implications of early pension withdrawals.
Hidetaka Nishizawa, Mr. Scott Roger, and Huan Zhang
Pacific island countries (PICs) are vulnerable severe natural disasters, especially cyclones, inflicting large losses on their economies. In the aftermath of disasters, PIC governments face revenue losses and spending pressures to address post-disaster relief and recovery efforts. This paper estimates the effects of severe natural disasters on fiscal revenues and expenditure in PICs. These are combined with information on the frequency of large disasters to calculate the rate of budgetary savings needed to build appropriate fiscal buffers. Fiscal buffers provide self-insurance against natural disaster shocks and facilitate quick disbursement for recovery and relief efforts, and protection of spending on essential services and infrastructure. The estimates can provide a benchmark for policymakers, and should be adjusted to take into account other sources of financing, as well as budget risks from less severe as well as more frequent disasters.
Ezequiel Cabezon, Ms. Leni Hunter, Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello, Kazuaki Washimi, and Mr. Yiqun Wu
Natural disasters and climate change are interrelated macro-critical issues affecting all
Pacific small states to varying degrees. In addition to their devastating human costs, these
events damage growth prospects and worsen countries’ fiscal positions. This is the first
cross-country IMF study assessing the impact of natural disasters on growth in the Pacific
islands as a group. A panel VAR analysis suggests that, for damage and losses equivalent to
1 percent of GDP, growth drops by 0.7 percentage point in the year of the disaster. We also
find that, during 1980-2014, trend growth was 0.7 percentage point lower than it would have
been without natural disasters. The paper also discusses a multi-pillar framework to enhance
resilience to natural disasters at the national, regional, and multilateral levels and the
importance of enhancing countries’ risk-management capacities. It highlights how this
approach can provide a more strategic and less ad hoc framework for strengthening both ex
ante and ex post resilience and what role the IMF can play.