The COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe impact on São Tomé and Príncipe’s economy, exacerbating fiscal and external imbalances. Tourism activities and external remittances dropped sharply, while lockdown measures further deepened the recession. The authorities’ swift actions and unprecedented international financial support are helping the country weather the emergency. The economy began to reopen in the fall, but the outlook for 2021 remains challenging and subject to significant uncertainty.
Lam Nguyen, Mika Saito, and Shirin Nikaein Towfighian
This paper explores the causes and consequences of fiscal dominance over monetary policy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Fiscal dominance has always been a pressing problem as it can contribute to inflation and macroeconomic instability, and increasingly so as fiscal deficits and public debt are rising in many SSA countries. We find that legal limits and availability of alternative financing options play an important role in determining the extent to which government deficits tend to be financed by the central bank. We also find economically significant effects of central bank lending to government on the exchange rate and inflation.
While improving, the economic outlook remains highly challenging, given the slow and uncertain recovery from the COVID-related shocks. Heavily dependent on oil, the Angolan economy has suffered from weakness in that sector, with falling production (related to the pandemic) and only a partial rebound in international prices recently. These shocks have led to a fifth straight year of recession and hardship. The public debt-to-GDP ratio has risen to very elevated levels, driven by recent real exchange rate depreciation. Nevertheless, strong fiscal performance and active debt management are setting the stage for a gradual economic recovery and reduction in debt vulnerabilities.
The economic outlook has substantially deteriorated since the Second Review, driven by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global economic activity and oil prices. The adverse impact of the shock on the Angolan economy, which is highly dependent on oil (95 percent of exports, two-thirds of government revenue), adds to the hardship from five consecutive years of recession. Rapid exchange rate depreciation and the decline in oil prices have pushed the public debt-to-GDP ratio to a very high level. However, continued fiscal retrenchment, prudent debt management, and debt reprofiling are expected to improve debt dynamics progressively.
The global economy is embarking on a lengthy path to recovery with modest growth expected for 2021, after a severe contraction this year. The global forecast is subject to unusually large risks. Emerging markets and developing economies face an uphill battle. Low-income developing countries are in an especially vulnerable position and risk a persistent and significant deterioration in development prospects.
Controlling the pandemic and cushioning the impact on the economy are key. LIDCs should adopt targeted containment measures and strictly prioritize spending and refrain from policies that could create long term damage. Multilateral cooperation and extensive support from the international community are indispensable.
The IMF has helped EMDEs through emergency lending and debt service relief. Targeted surveillance and capacity development will tackle new policy challenges and react nimbly to the needs of the membership including fragile and small states.
The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the fragile island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. Tourist arrivals came to an abrupt halt in mid-March, externally financed projects are being delayed, and supply shipments are disrupted. In response to the local outbreak, emergency confinement measures have been in place since March to contain infection. The authorities began phasing out these measures in late June, aiming for a full reopening of the economy by end-July. A disbursement supported by the Rapid Credit Facility (SDR 9.028 million) was approved in April 2020. The authorities request an augmentation of the ECF program by 10 percent of quota (SDR 1.48 million).