International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
In the past two decades, Paraguay has seen strong growth and a sharp reduction in poverty. Strong GDP growth was the result of sound macro policies (with low inflation and low fiscal deficits and debt) and an agricultural commodity price boom which spilled over to the non-tradable sector. Growth was not just high but also volatile, as bad weather shocks led to poor harvests, which spill over to the broader economy. In early 2020, Paraguay was rebounding strongly from another weather shock, and full-year growth was forecast at over 4 percent. In 2019, bad weather had reduced the harvest, and GDP growth had come to a near standstill. A recovery started in the second half of 2019 and gathered strength in early 2020—in February economic activity was 7 percent higher than a year earlier. The Covid-19 epidemic halted the recovery. An early lockdown—which kept the death toll among the lowest in the region—led to a sharp contraction in economic activity, with April activity levels at 20 percent below those in February. Women, informal sector workers, and workers in the service sector were particularly hard hit; while children were severely affected by the closing of the schools until the end of 2020.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Malaysia entered the pandemic from a robust economic position but has nonetheless been significantly affected. A synchronous fiscal, monetary and financial policy response has helped cushion the economic impact. As a result, after a deep recession in 2020, and assuming the pandemic is brought under control in Malaysia and globally, growth would rebound to 6.5 percent in 2021 as supply side constraints are lifted and domestic and external demand recover. Large downside risks will remain.
Davide Furceri, Michael Ganslmeier, Mr. Jonathan David Ostry, and Naihan Yang
While the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all countries, output losses vary considerably across countries. We provide a first analysis of robust determinants of observed initial output losses using model-averaging techniques—Weighted Average Least Squares and Bayesian Model Averaging. The results suggest that countries that experienced larger output losses are those with lower GDP per capita, more stringent containment measures, higher deaths per capita, higher tourism dependence, more liberalized financial markets, higher pre-crisis growth, lower fiscal stimulus, higher ethnic and religious fractionalization and more democratic regimes. With respect to the first factor, lower resilience of poorer countries reflects the higher economic costs of containment measures and deaths in such countries and less effective fiscal and monetary policy stimulus.
Germany managed the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic relatively well thanks to an early and vigorous public health response. Nonetheless, unprecedented disruptions to economic and social activity caused a deep recession in the first half of 2020. The gradual easing of containment measures since late-April has led to a partial revival of growth, but in late-October a “lockdown light” was announced to counter a new wave of infections, and restrictions were further tightened in mid-December. Significant risks remain about the pace and extent of the recovery as the uncertain course of the epidemic continues to impact economic activity.
Mr. Jeffrey R. Franks, Bertrand Gruss, Mr. Carlos Mulas-Granados, Manasa Patnam, and Mr. Sebastian Weber
European authorities introduced stringent lockdown measures in early 2020 to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. As the first wave of infection curves flattened and the outbreak appeared controlled, most countries started to reopen their economies albeit using diverse strategies. This paper introduces a novel daily database of sectoral reopening measures in Europe during the first-wave and documents that country plans differed significantly in terms of timing, pace, and sequencing of sectoral reopening measures. We then show that reopenings led to a recovery in mobility—a proxy for economic activity—but at the cost of somewhat higher infections. However, the experience with reopening reveals some original dimensions of this trade-off. First, the increase in COVID-19 infections after reopening appears less severe in fatality rates. Second, a given reopening step is associated with a worse reinfection outcome in countries that started reopening earlier on the infection curve or that opened all sectors at a fast pace in a relatively short time. Finally, while opening measures tend to have an amplification effect on subsequent cases when a large fraction of the economy is already open, this effect appears heterogenous across sectors.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region and those in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with swift and stringent measures to mitigate its spread and impact but continue to face an uncertain and difficult environment. Oil exporters were particularly hard hit by a “double-whammy” of the economic impact of lockdowns and the resulting sharp decline in oil demand and prices. Containing the health crisis, cushioning income losses, and expanding social spending remain immediate priorities. However, governments must also begin to lay the groundwork for recovery and rebuilding stronger, including by addressing legacies from the crisis and strengthening inclusion.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This paper discusses Jamaica’s Request for Purchase Under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI). The Jamaican authorities have proactively responded to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Nevertheless, despite the authorities’ best efforts, the pandemic is severely impacting the Jamaican economy, as a sudden stop in tourism and falling remittances are generating a sizable balance-of-payments need. Moreover, the economic outlook remains subject to an unusually high degree of uncertainty. The disbursement under the RFI will strengthen reserves and help catalyze additional support from other international financial institutions and development partners. The authorities’ policy response to the COVID-19 crisis is appropriate, including the timely adoption of targeted measures to support jobs and provide resources to vulnerable segments of the population. Once the crisis abates, building on their demonstrated commitment to reform and stability-oriented measures, the authorities should continue the implementation of their ambitious reform agenda to support the economic recovery and ensure strong and sustainable economic growth.
Sub-Saharan Africa is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis that threatens to throw the region off its stride, reversing the encouraging development progress of recent years. Furthermore, by exacting a heavy human toll, upending livelihoods, and damaging business and government balance sheets, the crisis threatens to retard the region’s growth prospects in the years to come. Previous crises tended to impact affect countries in the region differentially, but no country will be spared this time.
This 2020 Article IV Consultation focuses on Malta’s near and medium-term challenges and policy priorities and was prepared before coronavirus disease 2019 became a global pandemic and resulted in unprecedented strains in global trade, commodity and financial markets. Pursuing structural reforms is expected to help sustain Malta’s growth performance while promoting social inclusion. The focus should continue to be on encouraging female and elderly participation in the labor market, upskilling the labor force and stimulating innovation. Moreover, to safeguard the business climate, remaining governance shortcomings should be addressed without delay, including by stepping up the fight against corruption and by increasing the efficiency of the judicial system while ensuring its independence. Improving access to affordable housing remains a key priority in support of greater inclusion. It is imperative to maintain gradual consolidation to ensure a balanced structural budget excluding proceeds from the Individual Investor Program. The IMF staff suggests continuing addressing infrastructure needs while upgrading public investment efficiency. Improve fiscal risk analysis and management.