A new report predicts that some Caribbean countries are headed for a debt crisis. S&P Global Ratings says islands like Barbados, Belize and The Bahamas are on the list. These three territories are some of the most exposed to the sudden stop in global tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic. After decade-long borrowing sprees, these countries are also staring down big bond payments, raising concern over how the Caribbean region can repay its debt.
“This pandemic shock is unlike any shock that these sovereigns have seen in their history,” said Julia Smith, a Toronto-based analyst at S&P Global Ratings.
Tourism in the Caribbean will probably decline by 60% to 70% from April to December compared with last year, according to S&P. The ratings company downgraded the Bahamas and Belize last week, and it lowered credit outlooks in Aruba, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica to negative.
Marla Dukharan, an economist in Barbados, calls it a once-per-century shock for the Caribbean. She said even in the most optimistic scenario, the region will lose about 50% of its tourist revenue this year.
That will weigh heavily on the Caribbean’s roughly $80 billion foreign debt load. Some of the largest reported holders of those notes include BlackRock Inc., AllianceBernstein, Pacific Investment Management Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., although the regional exposure is just a fraction of their total assets under management. Officials at BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan declined to comment.
SOURCE – BLOOMBERG