IMF on Barbados’ 2018–19 Sovereign Debt Restructuring
The following is an extract from the Barbados’ 2018–19 Sovereign Debt Restructuring–A Sea Change? uploaded to the IMF website this evening (21/02/2020) – David, Blogmaster
VII. LESSONS LEARNED AND CONCLUSION
Barbados’ 2018-19 debt restructuring has made an important contribution to restore debt sustainability. It has reduced public debt and put it on a clear downward trajectory. To ensure that it stays on that path, sustained prudent fiscal policy will be required. Debt restructuring can work as a policy response to an exceptional situation—while repeatedly restructuring the same debt is detrimental to market development and access, and to government credibility (see Okwuokei and van Selm 2017: p. 168).
Barbados’ debt restructuring also provides important evidence that rarely used approaches, such as the inclusion of treasury bills and a retrofitted collective action mechanism, can make an important contribution depending on country specifics, and with the support of strong financial and legal advice. The collective action clauses included in Barbados’ Eurobonds were similarly important to avoid holdout creditors.
In an age of climate change, the inclusion of natural disaster clause in the bulk of Barbados’ new public debt instruments is a critical element of the country’s financial resilience. While Barbados appears less vulnerable to natural disasters than other Caribbean states (see IMF 2019b), climate change is likely to increase its vulnerability, and a weather-related event could have a major impact on its economy.
The success of Barbados’ underlying economic reform program BERT also contains important pointers for a successful adjustment effort, including strong ownership and the establishment of a domestic monitoring team with broad participation. Other successful reform efforts in the region, including Jamaica from 2013-2019 and Grenada’s 2014-17 IMF-supported program, also used this approach.
Finally, successful debt restructuring is a balancing act. The right balance between fiscal adjustment and debt restructuring, and between improving public finances while maintaining financial sector stability, needs to be found. Early results from Barbados’ adjustment program are encouraging and indicate that it has been able to find the right balance. However, reducing public debt to prudent levels—the targeted 80 percent of GDP by FY2027/78 and 60 percent by FY2033/34—will require sustained efforts, not only by maintaining a cautious fiscal policy, but also by aggressively exploiting opportunities to increase growth.
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