Overview

  • Sixteen Caribbean countries are members of the World Bank Group:

    • Bahamas, The
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Dominican Republic, The
    • Guyana
    • Haiti
    • Jamaica
    • Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
      • Antigua and Barbuda
      • Dominica
      • Grenada
      • Saint Kitts and Nevis
      • Saint Lucia
      • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
    • Sint Maarten
    • Suriname
    • Trinidad and Tobago

     

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    The Caribbean is still recovering from the unprecedented hurricane season in 2017. Even so, the region has huge economic potential and growth opportunities. With its stunning scenery and vibrant cultures drawing visitors from across the globe, it is one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

    The Caribbean has an educated, multilingual workforce and sophisticated financial systems, and is a short hop to the United States, Mexico and other large markets. The region has big potential to further develop its services, logistics, agriculture, creative and digital sectors.

    Rich ocean resources drive the “blue economy” in these markets. While the small size of these countries can prove challenging, it also means they can respond quickly to opportunities for innovation and to improve their competitiveness.

    The region, however, is extremely vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, and the damages can surpass the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of some nations. Indeed, natural disasters cost the region an estimated US$8.6 billion between 1996 and 2015. Since then, major hurricanes including Irma and Maria in 2017 caused even more damages. Investing to prepare for climate change and natural disasters will be critical for the region’s resilience and the reduction of human and economic costs.

    Economic outlook

    Many small economies in the Caribbean, particularly the tourism-dependent economies, have been growing faster in the last three years. GDP growth rates in 2017 averaged 1.7 percent in service-oriented economies. The Dominican Republic did even better, growing by an estimated 4.6 percent.

    Others did not fare so well. Belize, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago continue to face the aftershocks of the 2014 drop in world prices for oil and other commodities.

    Belize

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    A small, upper-middle income country with a population of about 367,000 and a per-capita income of US$4,971, Belize has undergone significant economic transformation since the 1990s, mainly due to its growing tourism industry and the commercial discovery of oil in 2005.

    The country also is home to the largest living coral reef in the world, making it a paradise for divers and marine wildlife. But its small economy, high dependence on exports and imports, and exposure to natural disasters make the country particularly vulnerable to terms-of-trade volatility and shocks.

    Belize’s economy is expected to grow to a modest 2.3 percent in 2019, led by services and private consumption. Unemployment declined to 9.2 percent in 2018 from 9.3 percent in 2017 — but was up from 7.9 percent in 2016. A rise in tourism, supported by growth in the number of cruise ship visitors, has led to a pickup in economic activity, most notably in the retail and transport sectors. In the medium term, the economy is forecast to accelerate to around 2 percent annual growth.

    Guyana

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    Guyana is a middle-income country with a per-capita income of US$5,194. Guyana is well endowed with natural resources, fertile agricultural lands, bauxite, gold, and extensive tropical forests that cover more than 80 percent of the country.

    These natural resources are drivers of economic activity in Guyana. In 2016, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining accounted for around one third of GDP. Gold mining grew rapidly and accounted for 48 percent of exports that year. Bauxite, sugar, rice, shrimp, and timber are other leading exports. That said, the country’s exposure to adverse weather events means it will need comprehensive measures for climate change resilience.

    The economy is expected to grow 4.6 percent in 2019 and over 30 percent in 2020, boosted by oil output. Guyana could be among the world's largest per-capita oil producers by 2025.This poses new challenges for the country that will require a careful management of economic, governance, and environmental risks.

    The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

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    The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is a diverse set of small island countries that are highly prone to natural disasters.

    Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have limited economies of scale and tend to specialize in a few products and services. They rely extensively on tourism and agriculture, and are heavily dependent on imports for food, fuel, and goods.

    The countries also receive high inflows of remittances. As a result, they are subject to excessive terms-of-trade volatility. The OECS service-oriented economies, which are largely based on tourism, lie in the so-called hurricane belt and are subject to major losses of infrastructure and livelihoods. Dominica, for example, suffered damages and losses estimated at 226 percent of its annual GDP during the 2017 hurricane season.

    In 2017, the OECS posted 3.3 percent growth from 2016, and the economy is expected to continue expanding in the medium term. Public debt is high across the OECS, putting a limit on state spending in other areas. OECS countries have made limited progress in reducing poverty despite their high human development indices and per-capita incomes. Unemployment, especially among women and youth, remains high, and this contributes to high emigration rates.

    Suriname

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    The smallest country in South America, Suriname, is an upper middle-income country with a per-capita income of US$6,504. It has been one of the Caribbean’s best performing economies over the last decade, largely thanks to its wealth of natural resources. Suriname’s economy is driven by the extractive industry, and agriculture exports to some extent.

    Bauxite, gold and oil have historically accounted for 30 percent of GDP and as much as 90 percent of total exports. The economy grew by an average of 3.3 percent per year between 2001 and 2016, well above the 2.1 percent average for the Caribbean’s small states.

    While the economy contracted in 2016, recent investments in large gold operations have helped return the country to growth. A modest expansion is forecast to continue over the medium term, supported by a positive outlook in the extractive sector.

    Trinidad and Tobago 

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    With a per-capita income of US$17,002, this twin-island state enjoys one of the highest average incomes in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The economy is based largely on oil and natural gas production, with the petroleum industry accounting for more than 40 percent of GDP between 2006 and 2014. The share, however, tumbled to approximately 22 percent of GDP in 2015 and 2016 after a sharp drop in international oil prices. The country has become a major financial center in the Caribbean as well.

    Economic growth averaged slightly more than 8 percent per year between 2000 and 2007, significantly higher than the 3.8 percent average for the LAC region over the same period. However, GDP growth has cooled since due to the sharp decline in oil and gas prices. GDP contracted by 2 percent in 2017 and 1 percent in 2018,and is expected to contract by 0.5 percent 2019. The economy is expected to recover at a modest pace between 2019 and 2021. Since the end of the 2000-14 commodities super cycle, the country has faced significant challenges. On the upside, the economy is expected to rebound in the medium term, helped by significant fiscal buffers managed by its sovereign Heritage Fund as well as adequate financial sector buffers, solid human capital, and overall political stability.

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

  • The World Bank Group (WBG), together with its Caribbean partners, is providing a wide range of financing, knowledge and convening services to strengthen economic management, support growth-enhancing reforms, promote equitable opportunities, and help build resilience to climate change. These are keys to help the region achieve sustainable and inclusive growth over the long term.

    The WBG’s ongoing support for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries has reached nearly US$2 billion, with a focus on strengthening resilience and financial protection against disasters. These sectors have received more than US$1 billion in concessional financing from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

    Belize

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    The WBG Country Partnership Framework (2018–22) supports the country’s efforts for reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. It will focus on building climate resilience and promoting financial inclusion and social resilience.

    To improve climate resilience and environmental sustainability, the WBG will contribute to strengthening infrastructure so that it is better equipped for extreme weather events. It will also contribute to protecting and improving the management of forests and marine ecosystems in coastal areas.

    On financial inclusion and social resilience, the WBG will support measures for enhancing financial sector infrastructure and increasing access to finance, as well as improving youth employability through targeted skills training and support for at-risk youth.

    Together with the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide analytical and technical assistance on financial sector infrastructure. The WBG will also help improve access to finance for the private sector, including micro, small and medium-sized businesses, expanding prospects to further leverage private investments.

    Guyana

    The Guyana Country Engagement Note (CEN) covers the period 2016–18 and focuses on:

    • Enhancing the resilience of selected infrastructure and disaster risk management capacities;
    • Setting the foundations for high quality education;
    • Laying the groundwork for private sector development.

    Financing for Guyana is channeled through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, and through a series of trust funds managed by the Bank.

    OECS

    The OECS Regional Partnership Strategy (RPS) for the 2015–19 period focuses on laying the foundations for sustainable, inclusive growth. A Performance and Learning Review, approved in mid-2018, looked at the strategy to accommodate the significant increase in IDA for four of the countries, as well as WBG’s contribution in the recovery efforts following the 2017 hurricane season. The revised strategy has been extended through 2020.

    In line with the OECS national and regional development strategies and in coordination with bilateral and multilateral partners, the WBG program has been refocused toward two key pillars of engagement:

    • Fostering conditions for growth and competitiveness; and
    • Strengthening resilience.
    • The IFC and MIGA are expected to contribute to the RPS objectives through selective investment support, depending on the opportunities.

    Suriname

    The Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) has been extended until FY21 proposes to support Suriname’s efforts in leveraging and sustaining its economic growth through greater social inclusiveness and economic diversification.

    In line with the government’s National Development Plan, the CPS program aims to support Suriname’s efforts to promote a more sustainable, inclusive, and diversified growth model by:

    • Creating a conducive investment climate for economic growth; and
    • Reducing vulnerability to floods.

    Trinidad and Tobago

    The World Bank is providing technical and advisory services to Trinidad and Tobago with a focus on promoting a better investment climate, economic diversification, and increased competitiveness, as well as strengthening institutional capacity and building a modern and more efficient public sector. These services are designed to help the country achieve its long-term development objectives.

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

  • Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Disasters

    Hurricanes Irma and Maria were a stark reminder that growing exposure to natural disasters is a major threat to development in the Caribbean. The World Bank launched projects to support climate resilience and enhance disaster preparedness and emergency response on the islands of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

    The focus is on making infrastructure more adaptable to extreme weather events and natural disasters, and improving government capacity to handle disaster risks. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, the World Bank Group fast-tracked its response by providing a financial package of more than US$100 million for Dominica, including by accessing the IDA crisis response window.

    Securing access to financial resources before a disaster strikes is also important. In response to Hurricane Irma, the WBG has also expedited preparation for a contingency line of credit to the Dominican Republic.

    Nine countries in Central America and the Caribbean experienced natural disasters with an economic impact that exceeded 50 percent of annual GDP in the past three decades. To address the problem, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) was created. It is the world’s first pooling mechanism to help countries access affordable insurance coverage against hurricanes, earthquakes, and excessive rainfall to reduce their financial vulnerability.

    Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, several Caribbean countries received payouts for a total of over US$50 million, less than 15 days after the devastating events. This regional insurance mechanism allows more than 20 Caribbean countries to access low-cost, high-quality sovereign catastrophe risk insurance.

    The Blue Economy

    Harnessing marine resources while preserving the Caribbean Sea can help countries address key challenges such as high unemployment, low growth, food security, poverty, and resilience to climate change.

    The World Bank report “Toward a Blue Economy: A Promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean” estimates that the Caribbean Sea (including mainland Caribbean coastal countries) generated US$407 billion in 2012. The WBG is accelerating progress in this area by supporting five countries of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in preserving and strengthening the resilience of coastal and marine resources and advising governments on concrete actions they can take to generate sustainable blue growth.

    Macroeconomic and Fiscal Sustainability

    The WBG has worked with regional partners to help Caribbean countries better manage public spending and reduce their debts to sustainable levels while also protecting poor and vulnerable populations.

    In the context of the global economic slowdown, the WBG provided Development Policy Financing to Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada, and the Dominican Republic to support pro-growth reforms to improve the investment climate and help create fiscal space.

    Jamaica has embarked on ambitious reforms to fill a large infrastructure gap, reduce the high cost of electricity and a dependence on oil, while also putting its fiscal house in order. These efforts have started to restore confidence in the Jamaican economy.

    The WBG provided budget support to the Dominican Republic to help the government strengthen its management of public expenditures and enhance the transparency and monitoring of government operations.

    In Grenada, the WBG provided a series of budget support operations to help private investment, improve public resource management, strengthen the banking sector, and boost resilience against natural disasters, among other things.

    Growth

    The WBG is helping improve Jamaica’s competitiveness by facilitating the growth of new and existing businesses there. The project is providing technical assistance for public-private partnerships, ranging from airports to ports, economic zones, water generation, wastewater and sewage, schools, and renewable energy.

    The Bank is mobilizing private capital for strategic investments and seeking to more fully integrate Jamaica’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into global value chains. It is also supporting the design of an urban plan to redevelop downtown Kingston.

    To reduce the high cost of energy and ease Caribbean countries’ dependence on fossil fuels, the WBG is supporting diversification of the region’s power sector by increasing the production of renewables and other clean energy sources. In the Eastern Caribbean, this involves the use of commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on rooftops in Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

    Cultivating an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation is key to boosting growth and job creation in the region. To help, the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), with support from the government of Canada, has provided tailored business development support and training to more than 2,100 entrepreneurs across sectors, including in digital and climate technologies. It has also facilitated more than US$4 million in investments raised by Caribbean entrepreneurs.

    In Jamaica, the Youth Employment in Digital & Animation Industries Project will benefit youth with training, work opportunities, and seed investments in the digital and animation industries.

    Inclusion and opportunities for all

    Quality education, affordable health care, and equitable social safety nets are key ingredients in building inclusive societies. In the Caribbean, several countries have launched innovative efforts to provide the most vulnerable, including children, with the knowledge, skills, and health they need to excel.

    Jamaica’s comprehensive National Strategic Plan for early childhood development is the first of its kind in the region. Jamaica is one of the few countries in the region that guarantees free pre-primary education and has the highest proportion of children enrolled in preschool. The WBG supports the scaling-up of early childhood development services to help improve parenting, care and school readiness for children from zero to six years of age, and to provide diagnosis and early stimulation for children at risk.

    To help improve student learning in pre-university education, the WBG’s Support to the National Education Pact project in the Dominican Republic will help recruit and train primary and secondary school teachers, better assess student learning at the primary and secondary level, strengthen early childhood development services, and decentralize public school management.

    In Guyana, the WBG has had long-standing support in the area of education spanning from early childhood to primary and secondary education, all the way to the University of Guyana. Curricula reforms and research programs have included significant contributions from the main indigenous groups. New students are being educated to acquire skills addressing new market demands arising with the Green State Development Strategy, as well as the emerging oil and gas sector.

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

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In Depth

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Brochure: Inside the Caribbean

Learn about our work in the Caribbean

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Towards a Blue Economy

A promise for sustainable growth in the Caribbean

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Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste

Report Calls for Urgent Action to Tackle Marine Pollution, A Growing Threat to the Caribbean Sea

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Open and Nimble

Finding Stable Growth in Small Economies

Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Dominican Republic
Alejandra De La Paz
Ave. Lope de Vega No. 29
Torre Novo-Centro, Piso 10,
Ensanche Naco, Santo Domingo
+809 872 7300
adelapaz@worldbank.org