COVID-19 pandemic triggers largest economic downturn since the Great Depression
Professor Justin Robinson
January 29, 2021
COVID-19 pandemic triggers largest economic downturn since the Great Depression

The COVID-19 pandemic is triggering the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929 to 1939 and the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

But despite this, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has managed the economy well and could be described as an exemplar in the region.

This observation was made recently by Professor Justin Robinson, head of the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus and Executive Director, Sagicor Cave Hill School Of Business & Management.

Speaking on WE FM’s Issues at Hand program, Professor Robinson said financially, the countries in the region, except maybe Guyana, are all having economic issues, but outside of the oil producing countries, SVG is one the best performers economically and is currently getting through the pandemic with the least economic damage.

He said SVG’s economy was projected to decline about seven per cent in 2020 and recover by 3.7 per cent in 2021.

“So the region on a whole is expected to be down by around 1.5 per cent but the story across the region is really one of decline,” Robinson said.

He said Antigua and Barbuda is predicted to be the worst affected, down 12.5 per cent, while St Kitts is down 10.7 per cent, Bahamas 10 per cent, St Lucia 10 per cent, Grenada 9 per cent, Dominica 5.5 per cent, Jamaica 5 per cent and Barbados 4.2 per cent.

He said that for SVG, the prediction is that the economy would decline by 3.3 per cent in 2021.

Professor Robinson gave two reasons for SVG’s performance, one, the country is not wholly a tourism dependent economy and two, good economic management.

“We have a particular type of tourism in the Grenadines and that has helped us weather the storm well as well as the management of the health authorities, and the economic management of the country I think has helped us get through this very difficult period as something of an exemplar in the region,” Professor Robinson, a Vincentian said.

He however noted that in 2021, SVG is facing COVID-19, dengue and an erupting volcano.

“…a triple whammy. So I am hoping that we can keep on this path,” he said, while noting that across the region, job losses and job cuts are dramatic.

“I serve as a director of the Central Bank in Barbados here and I get to see a lot of these numbers first hand and there was a point in the pandemic where the NIS in Barbados was seeing 40,000 plus unemployment claims and these are numbers we have never experienced.

“I know we (SVG) have a budget coming up and when you have a crisis of this scale the nature of the government response is extremely important and SVG as tough as it seems, SVG has weathered this storm extremely well compared to the rest of the region,” Professor Robinson said.