The world economy will grow by 5.5 per cent this year, reversing the 3.5 per cent contraction that it saw in 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects in its latest global economic forecast.
Growth will also be boosted by the continued strong economic rebound in China, as well as by policy support in large economies such as the United States and Japan. In addition, the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines could boost economic activity in the second half of the year.
The 2021 growth forecast was revised up 0.3 percentage points from its previous forecast in October, while last year’s economic contraction was 0.9 percentage points less than previously projected, according to the World Economic Outlook update, published on Tuesday.
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However, economic activity remains well below pre-pandemic levels. “Even with the anticipated recovery in 2021-22, output gaps are not expected to close until after 2022,” the IMF report says.
While the US and Japan are projected to regain late-2019 activity levels in the second half of 2021, activity in the Eurozone and Britain is expected to remain below end-2019 levels into 2022, according to the global financial body.
In terms of securing that recovery path, its likely important [for China] to ensure that the rebalancing towards private consumption continues and perhaps even accelerates to an extent
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is expected to maintain its “strong recovery”, with growth seen hitting 8.1 per cent this year following its “effective containment measures, a forceful public investment response, and central bank liquidity support”, the IMF said. The new forecast is 0.1 percentage point lower than it was in the October forecast.
China returned to the pre-pandemic activity levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, well ahead of the other countries as a result of strong infrastructure spending and aggressive credit provision from the central bank, said Malhar Nabar, division chief at IMF’s research department, said at a press conference introducing the report.
“In terms of securing that recovery path, its likely important [for China] to ensure that the rebalancing towards private consumption continues and perhaps even accelerates to an extent,” said Nahar, adding that strengthening the social security net to bring down households’ precautionary savings so that they increase spending and enacting structural reforms to deregulate key sectors to bring in more private investment would also help China to lift its growth in the medium term.
The US, the world’s largest economy, which has lost more than 400,000 lives to the pandemic, is expected to grow 4.3 per cent in 2021, up 0.4 percentage points from the IMF’s last forecast.
The IMF wrote approvingly of the latest economic stimulus plans from the US, Japan and the European Union, which it said would “help lift economic activity among advanced economies with favourable spillovers to trading partners”.
These plans include US President Joe Biden’s new US$1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal and the US$900 billion rescue package approved in December; Japan’s deployment of US$3 trillion worth of economic packages; and the unlocking of the European Union’s stimulus plan, a 900 billion euro (US$857 million) war chest set up by the bloc to support economies hammered by the coronavirus crisis, the IMF said.
Chinese officials, on the other hand, have warned that excess economic stimulus measures by developed countries increase the risk of creating asset bubbles that threaten global financial stability.
The roll-out of vaccines to combat the coronavirus pandemic is also expected to play a key role in helping the global economic recovery. “The softening [of growth] in early 2021 is expected to give way to rising momentum in the second quarter as vaccines and therapies become more readily available, allowing contact-intensive activity to strengthen,” the IMF said.
While the volume of global trade is forecast to grow by about 8 per cent in 2021, the international financial institution does not anticipate a quick pickup in the services trade, which has been among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, as a result of “subdued cross-border tourism and business travel”.
The IMF report stressed that the recovery of global economic activity is contingent on effective coronavirus controls, warning that the expected recovery could be pushed back if new variants of the virus prove difficult to contain and the vaccine roll-out continues to suffer delays.
The pandemic is likely to have a long-lasting effect on low-income groups, the IMF said, with the public health crisis expected to reverse the progress made in reducing poverty over the past two decades.
“Close to 90 million people are likely to fall below the extreme poverty threshold during 2020-21,” the IMF warned.
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