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Jamaica, DR most vulnerable to US fiscal cliff

Friday, December 14, 2012    

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FITCH Ratings expects the US will avoid a fiscal cliff that would see some US$600 million of tax increases and spending cuts materialise.

But Jamaica and the Dominican Republic (DR) would be the most vulnerable, by the ratings agency's estimation.

Their high current account deficits, 14.5 per cent and seven per cent of GDP, respectively, and weak international liquidity are largely to blame for the two countries' vulnerability.

"Countries in the Caribbean would also feel the impact through real transmission channels of reduced tourism receipts and the hit on overseas workers' remittances," said Fitch in its latest report on the region.

The significant decline in Jamaica's international reserves is eroding its capacity to confront external shocks, especially without an IMF programme.

"Similarly, the Dominican Republic has a sizeable current account deficit (although this should decline materially by 2014 owing to the start of Barrick Gold exports in this quarter) and weak international liquidity," said the report. "The country's ability to secure another IMF programme is currently uncertain."

"An IMF agreement could provide both sovereigns with access to further multilateral financing.

The ratings agency is predicting that Latin America's GDP growth will pick up to 3.7 per cent in 2013, from an estimated 2.8 per cent in 2012, due to favourable domestic demand, sound policies, and continued macroeconomic stability.

However, Jamaica and El Salvador are expected to continue to experience economic underperformance next year.

"Their weak economic growth is a reflection of structural rigidities such as high crime rates, weak investment prospects and subdued domestic confidence," said Fitch. "Jamaica's economic woes are exacerbated by fiscal pressures and the delay in the negotiation of an IMF programme that could potentially boost confidence."

The regional growth forecast is heavily influenced by the expected rebound of Brazil, although there is downside risks associated with its recovery.

Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay are expected to perform better than the regional growth average of 3.7 per cent in 2013, with Panama being the fastest growing economy in the region.

Economic growth in Brazil and Mexico is forecasted to be close to the regional average.

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