by Clive Bacchus
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The vital tourism industry that employs thousands in the eastern Caribbean is estimated to have declined by 75 percent last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel.
But while the economic outlook for the region is uncertain due to the recent spike in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in key source markets and some member countries the rollout of vaccines in these source markets and the arrival of vaccines in the ECCU member countries are positive developments, notes the communique issued at the end of the 98th Meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Council.
The financial sector remained stable with none of the licensed Financial Institutions operating in the ECCU requesting liquidity support from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
But non-performing loans in the ECCU as of September 2020 averaged 11.2 percent and that number is expected to increase when loan moratoriums expire in September this year.
As of 30 November 2020, commercial banks were providing deferral on 16,834 loans with a total outstanding balance of $4.3b, which represents 32.0 percent of total loans.
Fiscal conditions across the ECCU deteriorated in 2020 as Governments experienced a sharp decline in revenue, while simultaneously spending significant sums on COVID-19 related expenditure, to protect lives and support livelihoods.
Up to September 2020, the aggregate overall fiscal deficit was $261.0m compared with a deficit of $135.0m in the same period of 2019. Total revenue collections across the region declined by $777.0m while expenditure fell by $671.0m.
The performance of the Regional Government Securities Market (RGSM) remains relatively stable as member governments continue to meet debt service obligations and actively access the market to raise funds to support economic activity. Last year, ECCU governments raised $1.1b on the RGSM, a contraction of 15.7 percent compared to 2019.