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Country Report Jamaica October 2017

Country Report Jamaica October 2017

  • October 2017
  • ID: 1698637
  • Format: PDF
  • By The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

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Outlook for 2018-22



  • The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government will retain public support in the short term, but will come under pressure as it enacts unpopular public-sector reforms, agreed upon with the IMF, amid a tepid economic recovery.
  • Peter Phillips, the new president of the opposition People's National Party, will steer the party to the left, capitalising on the JLP's austerity programme and its failure to stem violence, but the JLP will remain in power.
  • Fiscal austerity, weak local demand and a hefty debt burden will limit growth. GDP will expand by an average of 1.6% in 2018-19, before it slows in 2020 amid weak US growth. It will recover in 2021-22, to an average of 1.4%
  • Having met IMF fiscal targets for fiscal year 2016/17 (April-March), the government will continue to deliver large primary surpluses, but austerity fatigue will raise the risk of delays in reforms, especially in the public sector.
  • After a policy rate cut in August, The Economist Intelligence Unit does not expect further easing this year. We estimate that inflation will end 2017 at 4.4%, and forecast it to fall to an annual average of just below 4% in 2018-22.
  • Monthly real currency depreciation will accelerate slightly in the short term owing to the recent policy-rate cut. However, real weakening will be moderate in the forecast period, averaging 1.5% annually in 2018-22.
  • The current-account deficit is forecast to widen progressively in 2018-22, until it peaks at 4.4% of GDP in 2022. This will be driven by larger trade and primary income deficits and slower growth in remittance inflows.


Review



  • In September the IMF conducted the second review of Jamaica's US$1.64bn three-year stand-by loan arrangement (SBA), confirming that it had met all the quantitative economic targets and structural benchmarks set for the review.
  • The central bank, in its April-June Quarterly Monetary Policy Report, centred attention on the high interest rates on loans pervasive in the private banking sector, as well as large spreads between the lending and deposit rates.
  • Consumer prices rose by 0.3% month on month in August, lower than the 0.6% rise registered for July; 12-month inflation stood at 4.4%. Food price rises were the main drivers of inflation.
  • The trade deficit widened to US$2bn in the first half of 2017, a 23% increase from the same period in 2016. The increase reflected higher international oil prices and larger volumes of imports.
  • Net remittances inflows in the January-April 2017 period increased by 2.2%, or US$14.5m, year on year. This suggests that a record for remittances will be set in 2017.


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