Recent economic developments. Supported by a large policy package, Serbia’s economy rebounded quickly from the initial COVID-19 shock, recording a 1 percent contraction of real GDP in 2020. Job losses have mostly been contained to the informal sector, thanks to policy measures aimed at preserving formal employment. A supplementary budget for 2021 was adopted in April boosting capital expenditure and extending policy support to households and corporates, against the background of third and fourth waves of infections and related containment measures, as well as a weaker-than-expected economic recovery in key trading partners. Inflation remains low. After rising again in late February, infections tapered, helped by new containment measures and the rapid vaccine rollout.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Guatemala has managed to keep infections and deaths moderate during the pandemic. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been mild given an early reopening of the economy, unprecedented policy support, and resilient remittances and exports. However, despite large-scale government interventions to support households, poverty and malnutrition have deteriorated following COVID-19 and the two major hurricanes battering Guatemala last November.
The Icelandic economy has been severely affected by the pandemic. Sharp tourism contraction and containment measures caused real GDP to plummet by 6.6 percent in 2020. A modest recovery will take hold in 2021. Recovery prospects in the tourism sector depend on control of the epidemic and progress in global and domestic vaccine distribution, spelling a challenging outlook with possibly deep medium-term scarring. Fiscal policy should continue to support the economy for now. Policy buffers accumulated over the last decade provided space for a large fiscal support and accommodated substantial automatic stabilizers. Additional stimulus is planned in 2021 to address still large slack in the economy, mitigate scarring, and provide confidence in the event of downside risks. Medium-term policies should ensure that public debt is firmly on a downward path, while limiting the drag on growth.
The pandemic is inflicting much suffering, which has been met with swift, substantial, and well-coordinated policy responses. The anti-crisis measures have helped preserve jobs, provide liquidity to companies and income support to the vulnerable groups. They averted a larger decline in output and kept unemployment under control. After contracting by 5.5 percent in 2020, real GDP is projected to grow by 3.9 percent in 2021 and 4.5 percent in 2022, as vaccinations help achieve herd immunity. However, risks to the outlook are large and tilted to the downside, given the epidemiological situation.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Successful containment of COVID-19 and strong policy support have helped contain the health and economic fallout, and a strong recovery is underway. Growth in 2020 reached 2.9 percent, among the highest in the world. However, labor market conditions remain weak. Corporate balance sheets have worsened, potentially hampering private investment and job prospects. Banks entered the crisis in a stronger position than in previous years, but weaknesses remain. Vietnam’s economy remains heavily reliant on external trade and is vulnerable to trade tensions.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Costa Rica has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding the authorities’ proactive policy response and the country’s well-established universal healthcare system. The socio-economic impact has been significant, exacerbating an already fragile outlook and pre-existing imbalances, with a significant toll on economic activity and unemployment—especially among women and the young. The shock has further weakened the country’s fiscal position, undermining the expected yields from the ambitious fiscal reform launched in late 2018, and generated a large financing gap. Financial support through the Fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) in 2020 provided temporary relief to respond to the pandemic, including by catalyzing financial assistance from other official partners, but financing needs remain sizable over the medium term.
After a long period of uninterrupted growth, Poland is experiencing a pandemic-induced recession, though strong policy actions have limited the damage. The economy rebounded strongly in the third quarter of 2020, but the second wave of the virus has delayed the recovery. A strong and effective policy response has supported economic activity and prevented destructive losses of employment and bankruptcies. Following the recession in 2020, Poland is well positioned for recovery. The pandemic will remain a constraint until the assumed administration of vaccines over the course of 2021. Resiliency in the corporate sector and labor markets, aided by strong policy support, should foster a strong rebound. Sizeable new EU grants would also facilitate an increase in investment and boost growth. The course of the pandemic and ultimate success of vaccines remains a fundamental risk.
Chapter 1 of the report draws some early lessons from governments’ fiscal responses to the pandemic and provides a roadmap for the recovery. Governments’ measures to cushion the blow from the pandemic total a staggering $12 trillion globally. These lifelines and the worldwide recession have pushed global public debt to an all-time high. But governments should not withdraw lifelines too rapidly. Government support should shift gradually from protecting old jobs to getting people back to work and helping viable but still-vulnerable firms safely reopen. The fiscal measures for the recovery are an opportunity to make the economy more inclusive and greener. Chapter 2 of this report argues that governments need to scale up public investment to ensure successful reopening, boost growth, and prepare economies for the future. Low interest rates make borrowing to invest desirable. Countries that cannot access finance will, however, need to do more with less. The chapter explains how investment can be scaled up while preserving quality. Increasing public investment by 1 percent of GDP in advanced and emerging economies could create 7 million jobs directly, and more than 20 million jobs indirectly. Investments in healthcare, housing, digitalization, and the environment would lay the foundations for a more resilient and inclusive economy.
Mr. Pragyan Deb, Davide Furceri, Mr. Jonathan David Ostry, and Nour Tawk
Containment measures are crucial to halt the spread of the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic but entail large short-term economic costs. This paper tries to quantify these effects using daily global data on real-time containment measures and indicators of economic activity such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions, flights, energy consumption, maritime trade, and mobility indices. Results suggest that containment measures have had, on average, a very large impact on economic activity—equivalent to a loss of about 15 percent in industrial production over a 30-day period following their implementation. Using novel data on fiscal and monetary policy measures used in response to the crisis, we find that these policy measures were effective in mitigating some of these economic costs. We also find that while workplace closures and stay-at-home orders are more effective in curbing infections, they are associated with the largest economic costs. Finally, while easing of containment measures has led to a pickup in economic activity, the effect has been lower (in absolute value) than that from the tightening of measures.
The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the fragile island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. Tourist arrivals came to an abrupt halt in mid-March, externally financed projects are being delayed, and supply shipments are disrupted. In response to the local outbreak, emergency confinement measures have been in place since March to contain infection. The authorities began phasing out these measures in late June, aiming for a full reopening of the economy by end-July. A disbursement supported by the Rapid Credit Facility (SDR 9.028 million) was approved in April 2020. The authorities request an augmentation of the ECF program by 10 percent of quota (SDR 1.48 million).