About Antigua and Barbuda
In 2000, 89% of the rural population had access to improved drinking water sources and 95% of the urban population had access to improved drinking water sources. The estimated prevalence rate for 15-49 yr old population is 0.7%. There were 7.5 AIDS incidences per 100,000 population registered since 1998.
In terms of the environment, Antigua and Barbuda's sewage mechanism has begun to suffer to the point where it will have negative implications for public health and the country's natural environment. The coastal zone is also degrading and guarantees an adverse impact on tourism in the near to medium term if the appropriate measures are not taken. Climate change, particularly with regards to sea level rise and increased frequency of natural disasters have high potential for impact.
The first woman elected to the Lower House was sworn in during March 2004. Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, a media consultant and former News Director of the state owned radio and television service and a new-comer to politics, has made history in the Parliament. In terms of corruption, a commission of inquiry was established to examine allegations of fraud in the handling of Antigua's Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS). The report of the Commission released in August 2002 recommended the Government pay at least 50 per cent of an estimated EC$ 120 million (US$44 million) owed to the Scheme. Three Government ministers and the MBS board of directors were dismissed as a result of alleged wrongdoing relating to the MBS, while one other minister tendered his resignation during the inquiry.
Economic Situation Analysis
After growth rates in GDP picked up around 2004, being at 12.2% in 2006 and 6.1 % in 2007. The main contributors to this performance were the construction and tourism sectors, which are also closely linked to the world economy. Antigua and Barbuda was therefore hit hard by the economic recession in 2008-2009.
Real GDP expected to decline by 1.1% in 2010, resulting from further declines in tourism and construction of 2.0 and 0.5 % respectively.
Tourism is Antigua’s most important productive sector, and was in 2007 estimated to account for 40 % of all employment, 85 % of foreign exchange earnings, 52 % of total investment and 70 % of GDP (directly and indirectly). Total earnings, and tourist arrivals saw a strong growth in 2007 (up 26.5% from 2006), but has since declined with the economic crisis. For Antigua and Barbuda, economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on income growth in their tourist markets, the US and UK.
Antigua and Barbuda's agricultural sector accounted for 3.3% of GDP in 2007, in 2010 this had decreased to between 2.5 and 3 %. The fishing sub-sector grew by almost 5 % from 2006 to 2007, reflecting new facilities for fisheries in St.John’s. The sub-sector contributed almost 52 % of the sector’s output. Agricultural production is focused on the domestic market and is further constrained by a shortage in labor. A labour force survey from 2004 found near full employment, and approximately 4% unemployment. The tourism and construction sectors compete with higher wages. Furthermore, local production has not been able to meet local demand all year round.
Tourism, construction, agriculture and fisheries, and Small and Medium Enterprises will be the priority sectors over the next five years and will be the focus of considerable effort by the government to harness domestic and external resources to support economic growth.
UNDP is currently facilitating a project on Sustainable Island Resource Management.
Challenges and Policy Issues
Since 1997, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has accumulated a large level of debt and severe fiscal imbalance. Between 1997 and 2001, the Government pursued a bilateral external debt renegotiation strategy in order to reschedule and refinance several loans. Despite these efforts, a sizeable stock of debt remained in arrears. Furthermore, the government obtained a concessionary loan of US$50 million from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. While this loan, combined with the 2006 PetroCaribe Agreements constituted a lifeline during the recession, they further increased the public debt.
The current account deficit widened to $172.46 in 2009 after years of a declining deficit. The Minister of Finance and Economy announced that the largest share of the recurrent expenditure will go towards servicing Public Debt. Debt service payments were at $214,506,424 for 2010. Data on fiscal performance show that over a 35 year period, not once did the government record an overall surplus. IMF concluded that the effects of the financial crisis on the Caribbean will likely persist into 2010 because tourism depends on employment conditions in advanced economies, which typically lag output recoveries.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda will also need to improve its institutional capacity to improve its fiscal situation as well as to collect, record and analyze economic data. As a result of poor planning, the government has not implemented any suggestions made by IFIs to improve its fiscal situation and continues to accumulate arrears on external debt. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance has not been able to effectively monitor ongoing projects. In general, capital estimates include large number of projects that are not implemented, which makes it difficult to project spending based on the annual budget.
- Economic diversification
- Financial management, public indebtedness and tax reform
- Poverty reduction
- Environmental degradation
- Alternative energy for economic security and GHG mitigation.