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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

1. COVID-19 came at a time of macroeconomic stability and firming growth. Guatemala proved the steadiest economy in Latin America post-GFC (with an average growth of 3½ percent) and economic momentum was strong pre-pandemic. Robust remittances, soaring investor confidence upon the inauguration of Giammattei’s administration (January 2020) and accommodative fiscal and monetary policies supported growth while keeping inflation expectations firmly anchored. The external position remained strong and the banking system liquid and well capitalized.

International Monetary Fund

The natural disasters that hit the country recently caused human losses and had a negative impact on the economy; however, they did not deviate the economic recovery path. Currently, growth in exports and imports is accelerating, remittances are recovering, and international reserves are well above end-2009 levels. The authorities have recently adopted regulations on liquidity and foreign currency credit risk management and have made further progress toward full provisioning of nonperforming loans. Finally, the IMF-supported program has also contributed to the achievement of their economic program goals.

International Monetary Fund
The natural disasters that hit the country recently caused human losses and had a negative impact on the economy; however, they did not deviate the economic recovery path. Currently, growth in exports and imports is accelerating, remittances are recovering, and international reserves are well above end-2009 levels. The authorities have recently adopted regulations on liquidity and foreign currency credit risk management and have made further progress toward full provisioning of nonperforming loans. Finally, the IMF-supported program has also contributed to the achievement of their economic program goals.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Guatemala has managed to keep infections and deaths moderate during the pandemic. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been mild given an early reopening of the economy, unprecedented policy support, and resilient remittances and exports. However, despite large-scale government interventions to support households, poverty and malnutrition have deteriorated following COVID-19 and the two major hurricanes battering Guatemala last November.
International Monetary Fund

The Guatemalan economy is recovering faster than anticipated during the previous program review. The economic outlook has improved since the second program review. The fiscal deficit in 2010 will decline somewhat. There was agreement that a comprehensive tax reform remains the key medium-term challenge. There was agreement that monetary policy should remain vigilant. There has been progress in advancing financial sector reforms, but key elements of the reform agenda are pending. The near-term outlook has improved since the second program review, and downside risks have declined further.

International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

KEY ISSUESContext. Guatemala’s economy has performed solidly since the 2008–09 crisis. Output has converged to potential, inflation is under control, and macroeconomic policies remain prudent. However, risks to the outlook are tilted downwards, while buffers are modest and space for counter-cyclical policies is thin. Long-term inclusive growth is constrained by low investment in physical and human capital, institutional weaknesses, and lack of security.Near-term policies are broadly appropriate. With the output gap closed, the broadly neutral fiscal stance is adequate. The monetary stance is slightly expansionary, but inflation is at the bottom of the target range. The authorities should stand ready to tighten monetary policy if inflationary pressures re-emerge.Fiscal sustainability should be enhanced over the medium term. Though the debt-to- GDP ratio remains moderate, the ability to implement counter-cyclical fiscal policies is limited, not least by Guatemala’s high government debt-to-revenue ratio. Debt stabilization requires moderate tightening of the budgetary stance over the medium term. The emphasis should be on revenue mobilization, given the overall low level of spending. Consolidating gains from the 2012 tax reform, which has so far proved disappointing, will be critical.Efforts to upgrade the monetary and exchange policy framework should continue. Anchoring low and stable inflation will require measures to bolster monetary policy transmission, including by expanding exchange rate flexibility. This should provide an additional shock absorber and reduce incentives for dollarization. It would also establish the inflation target as the undisputed primary objective of the central bank.Further strengthening of the financial system is necessary. The 2014 FSAP update found that Guatemala has made significant progress in financial regulation and that the banking system appears to be generally sound. However, efforts are still needed to improve consolidated supervision and the regulation of off-shore banks. The time is also ripe for a phased move to Basel III standards.Structural reforms are vital to achieving long-term inclusive growth. Paving the way towards high, inclusive growth will depend upon raising the low tax-to-GDP ratio to supportpriority public spending, thereby addressing critical social and developmental needs.