KINGSTON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Antigua and Barbuda's reforms have made "notable progress" in restoring debt sustainability and macroeconomic stability, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday.
Geoffrey Bannister, head of the IMF mission to Antigua and Barbuda, said in a statement that the twin-island nation's economy has been on the correct path to achieve fiscal targets, according to reports reaching here from St. John's.
"The fiscal outturn for March 2013 was well above program targets, surpassing the performance criterion on the overall fiscal balance and the indicative target for the primary balance by a wide margin," said Bannister, whose team just concluded an assessment on the IMF supporting program to the country.
"This was partly as a result of strong revenue performance in the first quarter, in line with program targets due to a large one-off reduction of tax arrears and partly to continued expenditure restraint," he added.
Bannister said the overall fiscal deficit and national debt of Antigua and Barbuda was 18 percent and 102 percent of GDP respectively in 2009.
The government's fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, as well as debt relief from external and domestic creditors, resulted in improvement of the two figures to 1.7 percent and 89 percent of GDP at the end of 2012, he said.
"The results were achieved during a period of significant economic contraction, in the face of a difficult external economic environment and domestic financial challenges," the IMF official said.
He added that Antigua and Barbuda's reform commitment began to pay dividends in 2012, when the economy saw positive growth for the first time in three years.
Bannister expressed confidence that it will complete 24 out of 28 reforms pertaining to fiscal, debt, civil service and public enterprise by the end of the program in June, given the country's outstanding efforts so far in adhering to the stipulations of the IMF program.
"For 2013, we expect this positive trend to continue, with a further recovery in growth and a small overall fiscal surplus," he said.
"The road ahead will not be easy, and it is important that the authorities maintain fiscal discipline to secure the hard-won gains of the past three years," Bannister added.