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Capital markets: Debt still underdeveloped

Only Uruguay and Bolivia have active corporate bond markets.

The capital markets of South America’s smallest countries have still not developed much beyond the issuance of government bonds. Among the region’s small economies, only Uruguay and Bolivia have active corporate bond markets. The capital markets of Paraguay, Guyana and Suriname are dominated by government debt.

Franklin Nieder, senior financial economist at the Inter-American Development Bank, says: "Guyana is a highly indebted country and relies heavily on international donors. It has a significant local-currency debt market but a very limited secondary market. There is a tiny amount of trading of government paper.

"There is no corporate bond issuance and the stock exchange is very small. Private pension funds are the main holders of government debt.

"On the other hand, Suriname is not nearly so indebted. A lot of government paper is issued. There is some selling between its holders but it’s very limited. The government is working on trying to develop a secondary market at the moment."

He adds that Guyana, whose annual GDP is almost $1 billion, suffers from a severe brain drain and most educated people leave the country. The economy of Suriname, with an annual GDP of $2.2 billion, is growing at around 5% a year on the back of high commodity prices – its main export is bauxite.

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