Mr. Tamim Bayoumi, Mr. Saad N Quayyum, and Sibabrata Das
The paper analyzes the impact of natural disasters on per-capita GDP growth. Using a quantile regressions and growth-at-risk approach, the paper examines the impact of disasters and policy choices on the distribution of growth rather than simply its average. We find that countries that have in place disaster preparedness mechanisms and lower public debt have lower probability of witnessing a significant drop in growth as a consequence of a natural disaster, but our innovative methodology in this paper finds that the two policies are complements since their effectiveness vary across different disaster scenarios. While both are helpful for small to mid-size disasters, lower debt—and hence more fiscal space—is more beneficial in the face of very large disasters. A balanced strategy would thus involve both policies.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Border closures and other pandemic containment measures have kept Vanuatu free from COVID-19. However, they have dealt a heavy blow to economic activity as tourism has come to a virtual halt. On top of the pandemic, Tropical Cyclone Harold and a volcanic eruption in Tanna Island caused extensive economic damage in 2020. In the context of a continued loss of correspondent banking relationships (CBRs) in the Pacific, Vanuatu also lost a key CBR at end-June 2021. Air Vanuatu, one of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), is in the process of being restructured.
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur
This paper proposes an easy-to-follow approach to track merchandise trade using vessel data and applies it to Pacific island countries. Pacific islands rely heavily on imports and maritime transport for trade. They are also highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters that pose risks to ports and supply chains. Using satellite-based vessel tracking data from the UN Global Platform, we construct daily indicators of port and trade activity for Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses to shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
Vybhavi Balasundharam, Ms. Leni Hunter, Iulai Lavea, and Mr. Paul G Seeds
Pacific island countries (PICs) rely on national airlines for connectivity, trade, and tourism. These airlines are being struck hard by COVID-19. Losses will weigh on public sector balance sheets and pose risks to economic recovery. With a backdrop of tight fiscal space and increasing government debt, losses in airlines are adding to fiscal risks in some PICs. This paper discusses tools to evaluate and manage the fiscal risks from national airlines in the Pacific. We present a snapshot of the current state of Public Financial Management (PFM) practices in PICs and detail the best practices. This exercise would illustrate the areas in which PICs have scope to improve their risk management with regard to national airlines. We then discuss the use of diagnostic tools and capacity development to enhance monitoring and risk management. Greater transparency and accountability in the airlines, combined with rigorous oversight, would be the first step towards improved financial management of national airlines.
The Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) requested a mission by the IMF’s Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC) for conducting a feasibility study on the implementation of a quarterly national accounts (QNA) in Vanuatu. This study outlines the staff, organizational and data requirements for Vanuatu to implement a quarterly national accounts program.
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.
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.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Four years after Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu causing extensive damages, reconstruction is near completion with full recovery in sight. The authorities are now focused on implementing their broader development plans that were slowed by the rebuilding process, which will require fiscal discipline and reforms to maintain debt sustainability. The authorities should continue their constructive engagement with development partners for technical assistance, capacity development, and concessional and grant-based funding. In parallel continuing to reform and strengthen the governance of institutions and removing vulnerabilities to corruption will be important.