by Marlon Madden
Officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are warning that most Caribbean economies, especially those relying heavily on tourism, could suffer from significant long-term scarring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have warned that urgent steps were therefore needed towards diversification of the tourism sector and engagement in sustainable use of ocean resources by increasing investment in shipping, fisheries and aquaculture.
This was outlined in a document prepared this month by Krishna Srinivasan, IMF Deputy Director in the Western Hemisphere; Sónia Muñoz, Division Chief of the Caribbean Division; and Ding Dong, IMF Deputy Division Chief of the Western Hemisphere in their March IMF country focus.
They have also outlined that despite significant funding from the international community, the region was facing a financing gap of about US$4 billion at present, as they warned that the risk of natural disasters could widen that gap in coming months.
“Many Caribbean countries risk becoming COVID-19 economic long-haulers. Much the same as some patients could suffer from lingering illnesses long after the coronavirus infection has passed, the pandemic’s economic fallout might be felt in the region long after the health emergency is controlled,” the document said.
“The reason is that most of its countries rely heavily on tourism. Due to their small size and limited room for manoeuvre, Caribbean economies were among the most affected by the pandemic.
With annual hotel stay plummeting by 70 per cent and cruise ship travel completely halted, tourism-dependent countries contracted