SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC):
THE ECONOMIC Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) is predicting that regional economies will grow by 1.2 per cent this year as they face “a complex external scenario” marked by low growth in economic activity and global trade.
In addition, ECLAC said the interest rate hikes carried out globally were compounded by the financial turbulence seen in early March, which has increased uncertainty and volatility in financial markets.
“Although inflationary pressures have slowed, monetary policy rates are expected to remain high throughout 2023 in the main developed economies,” it said, noting that in this context of growing external uncertainties and domestic restrictions, it expects the slowdown in economic growth to deepen in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2023, reaching a rate of 1.2 per cent.
It warned that regional countries are facing limited space for fiscal and monetary policy once again in 2023.
“As in the rest of the world, inflation in the region is exhibiting a downward trend, and while the process of interest rate hikes in several of the region’s countries is expected to end soon, the effects of this restrictive policy on private consumption and investment will be felt more strongly this year, due to the lag time with which monetary policy acts,” ECLAC said.
“In addition, given the recent global financial volatility related to problems at banks in developed countries, and given that regional inflation is seen remaining high in comparison with pre-pandemic levels, a monetary easing cycle is not expected to take hold yet in the region,” it added.
With regard to fiscal matters, ECLAC said the authorities have “little leeway as long as public-debt levels remain high”.
In a context of high demand for public spending, ECLAC said measures will be needed to strengthen fiscal sustainability and expand fiscal space by strengthening the taxation policy’s revenue-raising and redistributive capacity.
The United Nations regional commission estimates that all of the subregions will experience lower growth in 2023 versus 2022.
It said South America will grow by 0.6 per cent in 2023 as compared with 3.8 per cent in 2022; the group made up of Central America and Mexico will expand by two per cent in comparison with 3.5 per cent in 2022; and the Caribbean, without including Guyana, will grow by 3.5 per cent in comparison to 5.8 per cent in 2022.
In the Caribbean economies, ECLAC said the deceleration forecast for 2023 is “due mainly to the fact that inflation has affected both real income – and with it, consumption – as well as production costs, with a negative impact on the competitiveness of exports, both of goods as well as tourism”.
ECLAC said the 2023 growth projection for the region is subject to downside risks, “given the possibility that turbulence in the global banking system, or in the financial system as a whole, could return and intensify, which would lead to a longer-lasting tightening of global financial conditions, with the resulting impacts on the access to and cost of financing.
“Along with these financial risks, uncertainty remains about the effects – on the world and on the region – that a possible prolongation of the war in Ukraine and increase in geo-economic fragmentation could have on economic growth, commodities prices, and global trade,” ECLAC warned.