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IMF: Fiscal shock in T&T will hurt Barbados

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

T&T is one of three countries that figure in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Barbados: Risk Assessment Matrix as potential disruptors of that country’s economy should they plunge into financial crisis. In its 82-page country report on Barbados, the IMF said “a fiscal shock in the US or a shock in the UK or T&T—Barbados’ three biggest trade partners,” would “aggravate vulnerabilities and could trigger a disorderly adjustment process”. One of the largest banks in Barbados is based in T&T, the IMF added. “All banks in Barbados are foreign-owned: three are from Canada, two from T&T, and one from the US. The assets of Canadian banks account for 75 per cent of the total. The overall capital adequacy ratio (CAR) is high at 21.5 per cent. The non-performing loan (NPL) ratio has risen steadily to 13.9 per cent in June 2013 while provisions declined to 36 per cent of NPLs from 60 per cent in 2008,” the IMF said.


Profitability has fallen as the share of loans in assets and the interest rate spread have both shrunk. Claims on the government have risen to 20 per cent of total domestic assets. “Barbados also has an important non-bank sector,” the IMF said. “Credit unions’ NPLs have increased from 5.25 per cent of total loans in 2008 to over 8 per cent in June 2013. Two Barbados-based financial conglomerates have substantial external linkages, mainly through their operations in commercial banking, insurance, and asset management in and outside of the Caribbean region.”
The IMF said iamong the “main threats” to Barbados’ economy is a “shock caused by adverse development in the UK, or T&T.” However, the agency added that the “likelihood of realisation of the threat (is) low.”  The IMF said the “growth outlook for the UK and T&T has improved in recent months. Aside from the US, these are the biggest sources of tourism flows and biggest goods export markets.” 

The IMF reiterated that “one of the biggest banks in Barbados is Trinidad-based,” and added that “there are other financial sector ties (in the T&T) insurance” sector as well. The multilateral agency ranked the “expected impact if threat is realised” at “medium,” saying a crisis in T&T “could have adverse effects on Barbados through both trade and capital flows, financial instability. This would put pressure on the balance of payments. Fiscal deficits would remain elevated as the revenue base narrows.”


Other risks
Outside of the three countries, other risks to Barbados that the IMF said “would aggravate vulnerabilities and could trigger a disorderly adjustment process” were “delays or failure to implement planned fiscal measures. These risks are not negligible,” for example, the IMF said, “There is ongoing pressure from labor unions to unwind layoff decisions.” The government of Barbados announced earlier this year it will be laying off 3000 public sector workers. “A continuation of policy trends could lead to further monetisation of the deficit, drop in investor confidence, further reserves losses, and pressure on the currency peg,” the IMF said. The IMF warned that “heightened global financial market volatility, which could lead to increases in particular to non-investment grade sovereign risk premia. This could impinge on Barbados’ access to market financing, both domestically and externally, engender reserve losses, and again put pressure on the currency peg.” The Barbados dollar trades at a fixed rate of Bds$2 to US$1. The IMF’s last risk listed in this section of the report was “a further decline in tourism receipts related to slower growth in the main advanced country source markets. This would hurt growth, revenues and the balance of payments.”


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