By Orville Williams
The country’s economy grew by 4.2 percent in 2021, despite the sustained impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and pronouncements made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year, the government has announced.
Following a consultation with Antigua and Barbuda last July, the IMF predicted that the economy would contract by one percent, which would have come after a whopping 17.3 percent contraction in 2020.
Based on the government’s announcement, however, the economy will have defied that IMF prediction, though there has not yet been any official data published showing the specifics of last year’s growth.
According to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, the growth was led by the country’s mainstay, the tourism sector, with the agriculture sector providing a decent contribution.
“It is clear that tourism was a significant factor, and not only tourism but the construction sector. Of course, the agriculture sector as well would have played its role, because we were emphasising all along last year and the prior year that what we needed was additional food security,” he said.
“The increased levels of production, in terms of meat and poultry production and in terms of food crops, would have contributed significantly toward increasing the level of economic activity and the saving of much-needed foreign exchange as well.”
The minister also noted that growth in the tourism sector can be attributed to extensive marketing done to signal to international partners that the country was ready and prepared for increased economic activity.
“From a tourism standpoint, it was reported that last year July was a record year for stayover visitor arrivals, because we did some of the right things and sent the right signals to the travel industry that Antigua was, in fact, open for business.
“And because there’d been a suppression for such a long time for persons who needed to get a break from Covid [and] who needed to have a vacation, our hotels did see higher levels of occupancy in July of last year. That pattern had continued, by and large, to where we are,” he said.
In its report last year, the IMF also predicted that the country would see an 8.5 percent growth in 2022, followed by 5.6 percent growth in 2023.
That prediction for 2022 is in line with that of the Antigua and Barbuda government, which has predicted an eight percent growth for the same period.