IDB highlights post-pandemic reform priorities for Caribbean

IDB highlights post-pandemic reform priorities for Caribbean

Thursday, July 30, 2020

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — A new report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is recommending that Caribbean countries fully underscore the importance of preparing for a broad resumption of travel and tourism, as well as the importance of bolstering capacity for debt management in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, the report, which reviewed the ongoing impact of the virus for Caribbean countries, also recommends broadening the social safety net, improving Internet connectivity, and strengthening the capacities of emergency health services.

The report, Caribbean Quarterly Bulletin: The Pandemic Saga Continues, also includes detailed assessments for The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“While coronavirus curves had flattened and several airports reopened, the region still faces a treacherous transition to a post-crisis scenario,” said David Rosenblatt, the regional economic advisor for the Caribbean Department of the IDB.

“The path forward will not be an easy one, as policymakers face social pressures, complicated fiscal situations, and a tough external environment. They will need to spend scarce resources efficiently, improve their debt management profile, and attend to longstanding institutional challenges in economic policy,” he added.

The report, put together by the team of economists of the IDB's Caribbean Department, notes the decisive actions by governments in the region to stop the spread of COVID-19.

On the economic front, however, the report states that conditions have worsened in recent months, as big declines in tourism revenues start to take a toll, with some countries facing historic double-digit declines in gross domestic product.

“The economic impact for countries that rely more on commodity exports will be less severe,” the report notes.

Using the recently launched Tourism Dependency Index, the report analyses Caribbean countries' tourism dependency and its implications for the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

It notes that a dozen Caribbean countries — including The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and six from the OECS — rank in the top 20 globally on the index of tourism dependence.

“Prospects for a return to pre-crisis levels of tourism demand remain highly uncertain, as the economic impact of the crisis continues to affect travellers' ability to reach Caribbean markets, as well as lingering concerns regarding sanitary conditions.”

The IDB said the Quarterly Bulletin uses its recent survey of 12,500 households in the Caribbean to analyse the social impacts of the crisis and sheds light on significant job losses and business closures for business owners in both tourism- and commodity-dependent economies.

For households earning less than the minimum wage, the report notes more than one in three respondents said they had gone hungry in the previous week.

The report also recommends strengthening emergency health capacity and social safety nets.

“The pandemic has also brought to the forefront the need to improve Internet connectivity and provide quality education,” the report noted.

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