If housing and labor market woes aren’t bad enough in the United States, they’re hurting Central America and the Caribbean too. It has been five years since the U.S. housing bubble burst and three years since the onset of the global financial crisis. And still, in the world’s largest economy—which in the past quickly and vigorously recovered from downturns—jobs and output are barely growing. In fact, output is just 1.6 percent higher than a year ago, and almost 14 million people remain unemployed. True, some of this lackluster economic performance reflects global factors, particularly the uncertainty surrounding the lingering European crisis, but also temporary factors related to the Japanese earthquake. However, on the domestic front, fragile household balance sheets and stubbornly high unemployment have been major factors impeding growth. This latter development is having negative spillovers on many Central American and Caribbean countries, where remittances and tourism flows from workers in the United States are important for their economies (see our most recent Regional Economic Outlook for Western Hemisphere).
The global financial crisis has led to mounting stress in the banking systems of most countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Private sector credit growth has slowed sharply and even turned negative in real terms in a number of countries, compared with the dramatic increases, ranging from 40 to 80 percent in the period immediately prior to the crisis. The credit slowdown is weighing on economic activity and having policymakers seek ways to restore it, thereby laying the foundation for a resumption in high and sustainable economic growth.
The Commodity Connection: Rising Commodity Prices and the Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean
As the world economy emerges from recession, it’s worth thinking about how the composition of this recovery, in terms of which countries expand faster, will affect commodity prices—and how those prices influence the outlook for economies of the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region.
The IMF has just finished its Annual Meetings in Istanbul, the traditional start of the old silk road and the gateway to Central Asia. Strategically located between East Asia and Europe, and South Asia and Russia, Central Asia is rich in resources and faces tremendous opportunities—yet to be made the most of.