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Caribbean Development Bank predicts regional comeback

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Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2021. 6:11 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: After a terrible year blighted by COVID-19, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) – pending a few dominoes falling into place first – expects something of a comeback.

The Jamaica Observer reports that its projection of 3.8 percent average growth in gross domestic product (GDP) as announced in its annual regional review and outlook report is clouded by the ongoing uncertainty caused by the global pandemic.

Its member countries’ economies contracted by 12.8 percent on average due to the onset of COVID-19; particularly hurt were countries with significant tourist industries (The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, and Grenada) which collectively lost more than 70 percent in overnight tourist visitors in 2020, which affected other economic sectors.

Jamaica declined 10.4 percent despite an increase in agriculture, while Belize was also impacted by a severe drought and the aforementioned decline in tourism.

Even the region’s oil-rich countries were not spared: while Guyana managed 26 percent economic growth due to oil production, it could have been more were it not for lower global oil prices. Trinidad and Tobago, meanwhile, saw a decline of 11.1 percent. The report further noted that in Haiti the pandemic affected manufacturing supply chains. This, it said, compounded the effect of social unrest on the economy early in the year.

Knock-on effects of the economic decline include declines in government revenues, increase expenditure for support of health sectors, social support and economic stimulus; a rise in unemployment, particularly for women and young people, and debt: the regional average of debt to GDP ratio neared 80 percent and is expect to rise to 81.5 percent this year.

Nonetheless, a gradual return to tourism starting later in the year is expected to lift economies dependent on that activity, depending on the rollout of mass vaccination programs and the risks of new waves of infection and variants of the virus.

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