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Capital Markets

Caribbean capital markets stunted by fragmentation

Capital markets development in the Caribbean has hit the buffers because of the limited size of individual economies. More inter-state cooperation and integration is a vital precondition of growth. Jason Mitchell reports.

INVESTMENT BANKS IN the Caribbean have benefited from some important debt transactions this year but the industry is highly concentrated and constrained by a lack of IPO and M&A activity.

The region has a total population of 36.3 million living on more than 7,000 islands but only a handful of countries have capital markets of any size, including the Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. According to the IMF, the Dominican Republic has the region’s biggest economy, with a GDP of $50 billion, followed by Trinidad & Tobago with $22.35 billion.

The Dominican Republic’s economy grew by 3.4% last year, with 3.5% projected for this year, while Trinidad & Tobago’s declined by 3.4% last year but is predicted to grow by 2.13% this year. Jamaica, the Caribbean’s third-biggest economy at $13.1 billion, has had a generally lacklustre economic performance: average annual growth over the past 15 years was only 0.7% and the economy is expected to contract by 0.2% this year.

Many islands are highly dependent on tourism, which took a severe hit because of the international financial crisis. The main exception is Trinidad & Tobago, which is the region’s biggest producer of oil and gas (accounting for 40% of GDP).

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