WASHIINGTON, Feb. 21, CMC – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the economy of Antigua and Barbuda is showing signs of recovery after three years of contraction. After concluding 2012 Article IV Consultation with the Government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, IMF executive directors commended the authorities’ “strong commitment to their economic program.” Noting, however, the significant challenges still posed by the “difficult global and domestic environment,” the directors called for “continued steadfast implementation of the program. “Accelerating structural reforms, especially fiscal and financial sector reforms, will be essential to restore growth and ensure macroeconomic and financial stability,” said the Washington-based financial institution in a statement issued here on Wednesday. “Directors supported the authorities’ commitment to fiscal consolidation and efforts to reduce public debt, with some cautioning that consolidation should not come at the expense of the fragile economic recovery,” it added. To ensure fiscal sustainability and create a buffer against shocks, the IMF directors stressed the importance of “improved public financial management and expenditure rationalization, without constraining the much-needed capital spending.” They said reversing delays in the structural reform agenda, including broadening the tax base, especially by eliminating tax exemptions, would help enhance revenue. The IMF directors also considered the reform of the pension system and improved oversight of state-owned enterprises to be “important priorities going forward.” They underscored the importance of continued efforts to improve financial sector stability, calling for the “timely resolution” of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Bank and other financial sector measures, including operation of the asset management company. On June 7, 2010, the IMF approved 36-month Stand-By Arrangement with Antigua and Barbuda. “The reform program was designed to catalyze financing from other international and regional financial institutions and created the framework for a successful debt renegotiation,” the statement said. “The main objective of the authorities’ program has been to put the public debt firmly on a downward trajectory through fiscal consolidation, debt restructuring and comprehensive reforms in revenue administration and public financial management,” it added.