In the run up to its annual spring meetings in Washington DC this week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its World Economic Outlook released today, has cut its baseline projection for global growth to 3.2% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2017, down from 3.4% and 3.6%, respectively, in its forecast in the January 2016 WEO Update Report. The title of its latest WEO Report “Too slow for too long” pretty much sums up the sluggish and disappointing pace of global growth post the global economic and financial recession and comes on the heels of the recently released World Trade Organisation’s report in which the WTO cut its forecast for global trade growth yet again.
Noting that the global recovery has weakened further in the midst of turbulence in financial markets, the IMF report highlighted several factors which have hampered global growth including legacies from the global recession and the eurozone crisis, declines in potential growth, the impact of low oil and commodities prices (on oil and commodities exporting countries), currency fluctuations and geopolitical tensions which they assumed to remain elevated in 2016 given the situations in Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East. However, the IMF forecasts the modest eurozone recovery to continue in 2016/17.
Emerging market and developing economies are expected to grow by 4.1% in 2016, compared to 1.9% projected output growth from advanced economies for the same period. While emerging and developing economies will continue to comprise the largest share of global growth in 2016, the IMF forecasts that growth in these economies will be uneven and weaker than in the previous year as a result of a moderate slowdown in China and a weak outlook for non-oil commodities exporters owing to further softening in commodities prices.
Not unrelated to the slowdown in global trade is the softer global investment demand, particularly in commodities-exporting economies due in part to China’s rebalancing and general uncertainty about global growth.
In regards to the Caribbean, the IMF forecasts real GDP growth of 3.5% (slightly above the global forecast) in 2016 and 3.6% in 2017. However, like the global situation, this growth will be uneven. The expected high flyers are as follows: Dominican Republic which is forecast to grow by 5.4% in 2016, Dominica at 4.9% and St. Kitts & Nevis at 4.7%. Barbados is projected to experience real GDP growth of over 2% in 2016, which is an improvement on the 0.5% growth in 2015 but still below both the global and regional average. Economic output in commodities exporting countries, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago, is forecast to contract by 2% and 1.1% respectively in 2016.
Turning to the United States, the Caribbean region’s largest trade partner and one of the beacons of hope in an otherwise still subdued global economy, the IMF cut the United States’ growth forecast to 2.4% in 2016, down from it previous forecast of 2.6%. However, the IMF noted that stronger balance sheets, an improving housing market and better fiscal position would help offset any negative effects on US exports from appreciation of the US dollar, weaker manufacturing and tighter domestic financial conditions in some sectors in the US economy.
In regards to the United Kingdom, a major tourist source market for many Caribbean countries, the IMF projects UK economic output to grow by 1.9% in 2016, down from 2.2% in 2015. The IMF listed Britain’s potential exit from the European Union ‘Brexit’ as one of the main risks to its outlook, noting that such a development would pose major challenges not just for the UK but the rest of Europe. Among the challenges highlighted would be disruption of trade and investment flows, while also increasing financial market volatility due to uncertainty during any post exit negotiations. Brexit is a development which the Region should monitor closely as any negative fall-out the UK’s exit from the EU has on the UK economy could affect countries like Barbados which depend heavily on the British market for tourist arrivals and real estate foreign direct investment inflows.
Stressing that the “current diminished outlook and associated downside possibilities warrant an immediate response”, the IMF has made several recommendations, which are also applicable to the Caribbean. Though citing the importance of accommodative monetary policies, the IMF also stressed the immediate need for such policies to be supported by “other policies that directly boost demand and supply”, including infrastructure investment, public action to encourage of research and development activity, structural reforms in product and labour markets, tax reform and financial reforms.
The full report may be viewed here.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.