News Column

Latin America, Caribbean Economies Expanding

October 26, 2013

By Jacqueline Charles, The Miami Herald

Oct. 26--Latin American economies are well placed to once more sustain relatively high growth rates and manage risks that could once again send their economies plummeting, said the director of the International Monetary Fund's Western Hemisphere division.

"Overall we are expecting positive growth, a stable financial environment," Alejandro Werner said Friday while attending a forum on Western Hemisphere Affairs organized by Latin Trade Group.

But while the region is on its way to an economic come back, albeit slow, Werner cautioned that Caribbean and Latin American nations must still remain prudent. The slowdown of the Chinese economy, falling commodity prices, high fuel prices and upcoming changes in U.S. monetary policies that will affect the domestic market, could all have a negative impact on the region's fragile economies.

"The region is kind of slowing down to more normal and sustainable rates of growth, but this has to be handled prudently," Werner said. "The policy framework should recognize that this is a new reality and not try to push through policy, fiscal or monetary, to achieve growth rates that are not aligned with potential growth."

Among those who are doing relatively well: Chile, Colombia and Peru. Those who could be doing better include Brazil and Mexico, which analysts say could still achieve it's expected 3 percent growth rate. Slowdowns in construction and manufacturing and other reforms have put Mexico at just 1.2 percent, which is contributing to an overall lower than expected growth rate for Latin America, Werner said.

Meanwhile the tourism-dependent Caribbean is also a concern even as the U.S. and Europe are on the mend. So far, those economies are growing at a paltry 1 percent, with a number of Caribbean nations including Jamaica having to turned to the Fund for financial help.

"The tourism dependent Caribbean faces a very difficult challenge of jump starting growth," Werner said.

The Fund is also keeping an eye on Haiti, whose finance minister recently traveled to D.C. to meet with fund members. While Haiti's economies is growing, concerns over the business environment remains. The parliament recent rejected the budget for this fiscal year, which included many new taxes and the Customs just reopened after a strike that went on for nearly two weeks.

"The region is decelerating a bit as the economy goes back to a more normal sustainable growth level," he said.


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Original headline: Latin America, Caribbean economies growing

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Source: Miami Herald (FL)

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