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IMF Gives Favourable Report On St Kitts And Nevis

by Leroy Baker, Lawandtax-News.com, New York

03 April 2007


The St Kitts and Nevis government said last week that the IMF has reported favourably on the Federation's economy. Despite the closure of the sugar industry, economic growth accelerated in 2006, fiscal imbalances have improved significantly and monetary aggregates have continued to grow in line with economic growth.

The report followed an IMF Article IV consultation on St. Kitts and Nevis. It noted that in July 2005, the sugar industry - the historical mainstay of the economy - closed after more than 300 years. The IMF said despite the closure of the sugar industry, economic growth has accelerated.

“In 2006, the economy is estimated to have recorded its third consecutive year of strong growth, projected at 4½ percent in 2006, with good prospects for 2007 due to the combination of ongoing construction projects and activity related to the Cricket World Cup,” said the Report.

It added that while the current account deficit remains large (at 25 percent of GDP in 2005), it has been mainly financed by foreign direct investment, and competitiveness appears to be improving - partly owing to the depreciation of the U.S. dollar against major currencies.

“The central government primary surplus is estimated at 6 percent of GDP in 2006, a significant turnaround from the small primary deficit recorded in 2004. Policy adjustments include increasing revenue effort based on administrative reforms that enhanced compliance and containing non-interest expenditures,” said the Report.

It said that despite the fiscal adjustment, public sector debt remains at a very high level and while the central government accounts have strengthened significantly, public enterprises are contracting significant debt. “The large gross financing needs of the government have been met by increased reliance on domestic financing sources,” said the Report.

The IMF noted that monetary aggregates in St. Kitts and Nevis have continued to grow in line with economic growth. Private credit has rebounded, rising by about 8 percent in 2005, and is projected to increase by more than 10 percent in 2006.

“The approval of the revisions to the uniform Banking Act has strengthened the regulatory basis for the banking system. Further progress has also been made in improving the supervision and the regulation of the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism framework to reflect ongoing changes in the financial system.Executive Board Assessment,” the IMF said.

IMF Directors also welcomed the improvement in economic outcomes and prospects achieved over the last few years, with recent growth driven largely by tourism and construction.

“To develop more sustainable sources of growth, Directors recommended strengthening the business and investment climate and improving competitiveness, including by enhancing the efficiency and reliability of public utilities,” said the Article IV statement.

The IMF said the St. Kitts and Nevis Government’s ambitious fiscal consolidation programme has already resulted in the central government achieving a strong primary surplus.

“Nevertheless, greater efforts to prioritize and control government expenditure are needed to sustain the fiscal adjustment and the transparency, accountability, monitoring, and oversight of public enterprises need to be improved, to ensure that the central government’s fiscal consolidation is not undermined by the poor financial performance of public entities,” said the IMF Report.

IMF Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to reform the tax system to improve its efficiency, but emphasised that for the reform to be successful it will need to be supported by improvements in administrative capacity.

“Even with full implementation of the authorities’ consolidation strategy, the public debt stock will remain very high for many years. Directors emphasised the importance of exploring options for a more rapid reduction of the debt-to-GDP ratio, including by accelerating the pace of asset sales and strengthening debt management. They stressed that a social consensus in favor of fiscal consolidation needs to be nurtured and strengthened, even as expenditure pressures related to population aging grow,” said the IMF.

It added that reducing financial sector risks, including in non-bank financial institutions, needs to be given high priority.

IMF Directors called for additional progress in making effective the single regulatory unit and in approving supporting legislation.

IMF directors observed that St. Kitts and Nevis's high vulnerability to natural disasters and shocks to tourism, highlights the importance of precautionary measures and contingency planning, welcomed the recent enhancements in the statistical database, but called for further efforts to improve the reliability and timeliness of key data, including on tourism, debt, and public enterprises.


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