The OECS comprise a diverse set of countries that share small, and open economies highly prone to natural disasters. Because of their size, they also tend to specialize in few products and services but cannot benefit from economies of scale.  These countries rely extensively on tourism and agriculture, but do not have a diversified enough market for their products and services and, as a result, are subject to excessive volatility.

The impact of the 2008 global financial crisis was severe as tourism, remittances, and financial activity decreased sharply, growth rates plummeted, debt and fiscal imbalances increased to high levels, and labor market conditions deteriorated. While OECS countries have made overall progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, challenges remain. Despite high human development indices, OECS countries have not succeeded in reducing poverty to levels compatible with their level of income per capita. The official poverty rates vary from 18 percent to 38 percent. The majority of the poor are found in rural areas where about half of the population lives. Studies report that female-headed households, which account for two-thirds of all households in the sub-region, are more likely to be poor. 

Unemployment, especially among women and youth, remains high. On the other hand, tourism activity showed a steady recovery in most countries. In particular, in Dominica, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, where it showed vast improvement in regional performance. Visitor arrivals to the OECS by air rose by 6.3 percent in 2014, reflecting increased arrivals by air from the USA, the UK and Canada.

The forecast for growth in 2015 is positive for the entire region. Average growth for the OECS is expected to accelerate over the medium term, approximating 2.3 percent.

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2015

A new OECS Regional Partnership Strategy (RPS) for the period FY15-19 was approved by the board in November 2014 and focuses on laying the foundations for sustainable inclusive growth.

In line with the OECD national and regional development strategies and in coordination with bilateral and multilateral partners, the three main areas of engagement are:

  • Enhancing productivity, competitiveness and employment: To improve the investment climate and attract foreign direct investment, the WBG will support activities to promote more predictable and lower energy prices; increased access to regional broadband networks and development of ICT services; promote innovation and entrepreneurship through privately funded incubators and training; strengthen linkages between the tourism and agribusiness sector; as well as support the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to support the financial system.
  • Modernizing the public sector: OECS governments are committed to implement fiscal consolidation measures to reduce fiscal deficits and promote sound and prudent debt management. In this effort, the WBG will support more effective and transparent public administrations, more robust institutional capacity and stronger frameworks for partnership with the private sector to meet the region’s growing infrastructure needs.
  • Building social and climate resilience: OECS countries have universal education coverage, however learning achievement remains low and lack of adequate skills is cited as a top constraint by firms. The Bank will support vocational training for over 2,600 young people and help consolidate and improve the targeting of existing social protection systems. In addition, the Bank will continue to assist governments in strengthening their capacity to respond to natural hazards and adapt to climate change and rising sea levels.

Constrained in general by the small size of investments in the OECS, the IFC and MIGA will contribute to the RPS objectives through selective investment support, depending on opportunities.

The IFC will focus on crisis response; job creation and inclusive growth; innovation, competitiveness, and integration; and climate change. MIGA faces limited opportunities for engagement because of the small market size of the OECS countries.

The RPS is anchored on  the Comprehensive Debt Framework, developed by the Bank in 2010 at the request of the Heads of Government of CARICOM countries. The CDF focuses on addressing the interdependent structural causes of high debt and low growth in small island states by (i) promoting private-sector led growth, (ii) strengthening fiscal management, (iii) building resilience to natural disasters, and (iv) improving debt management. Governments of the

The indicative IBRD lending program for the six OECS countries is expected to be around US$120 million, or up to a maximum of US$20 million for each OECS country for the period of the RPS (FY15-19).In addition, four OECS countries (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) can also count on an IDA national allocation. The IDA17 (FY15-17) allocation for the OECS is equal to SDR60.2 million, an increase of around 22 percent over the IDA16 allocation. 

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2015

Important results have been achieved during the past several years in Government projects financed by the World Bank.  These include:

Social services:

  • The Bank supported over 2,000 unemployed youth in St. Lucia and Grenada to receive training and regional and internationally recognized certification in competency-based skills that would enable them to secure employment beyond individual countries.
  • A regional occupational standards framework to improve the quality and relevance of technical and vocational education in Saint Lucia and Grenada was established. Both Saint Lucia and Grenada were authorized by the Caribbean Association of National Training Agencies (CANTA) to issue regional certifications.
  • Nine OECS Member States developed and endorsed a results-based regional education strategy “Every Leaner Succeeds”, which provides a framework for a regional approach to achieving quality education for all in the OECS.
  • The first regional education statistical digest for nine OECS countries was published, and constitutes the baseline for monitoring the implementation of the regional education strategy.

Building resilience:

In recent years, disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation activities have come to represent a growing portion of the overall World Bank portfolio in the Caribbean.

Within a few weeks of the recent Tropical storm Erika in Dominica (August 2015) and the December 2013 flash floods in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the World Bank had a team on the ground assisting with the damage and loss assessments and was able to mobilize some resources to support the governments’ recovery effort including debris removal, construction of temporary road infrastructure and  cover other emergency operation costs. In the case of St Lucia and SVG, the Bank responded quickly in mobilizing resources from the International Development Association (IDA) Crisis Response Window.

Saint Lucia’s success in addressing landslide hazards in urban communities is a result of an innovative community-based and scientific approach, the Management of Slope Stability in Communities (MoSSaiC)..

In Grenada, 1,500 farmers received technical assistance and financial support to buy seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and tools, and protect themselves from climate and economic shocks after two consecutive hurricanes.

The OECS-Catastrophe Insurance Project has allowed countries to join the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility. The Facility serves as a joint reserve mechanism where participating governments can obtain coverage (insurance) that gives them the ability to access a quick financial payout in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster. Overall, this insurance has been a success, providing the much needed liquidity promptly following a catastrophic weather-related event and has helped reduce the fiscal vulnerability of OECS to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.

In St Lucia, an island-wide structural vulnerability assessment of residential buildings was conducted to help identify and prioritize specific home improvements for resilience-building, which would be eligible for financing from the Climate Adaptation Finance Facility.


The number of subscribers of fixed Broadband Services went from 8 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2014, while the number of Internet users increased from 34 to 56 percent in the same period. Broadband performance (in terms of downloading speed) more than doubled in Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia, and increased by more than 50 percent in St. Kitts and Nevis during the 2008-2011 period. The quality of service improved as well. The Telecommunications and ICT Development Projects also increased the use of information and communication technologies among rural underserved communities, persons with special needs, and contributed to improve communications, collaboration, e-learning and research for students.

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2015


Organization of Eastern Caribbean States: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments