Global Economic Prospects by the World Bank Group

What is the situation?

The COVID-19 pandemic has, with alarming speed, delivered a global economic shock of enormous magnitude, leading to steep recessions in many countries.

  • The baseline forecast envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020—the deepest global recession in eight decades, despite unprecedented policy support. The pandemic highlights the urgent need for health and economic policy action—including global cooperation—to cushion its consequences, protect vulnerable populations, and improve countries’ capacity to prevent and cope with similar events in the future.
  • Financial markets have been extremely volatile, reflecting exceptionally high uncertainty and the worsening outlook. Commodity prices have declined sharply as a result of falling global demand, with oil particularly affected. Many countries have provided large-scale macroeconomic support to alleviate the economic blow, which has contributed to a recent stabilization in financial markets. The fiscal policy support that has been announced already far exceeds that enacted during the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

Downside Scenario

Advanced economies are projected to shrink by 7 percent in 2020, as widespread social-distancing measures, a sharp tightening of financial conditions, and a collapse in external demand depress activity. Assuming that the outbreak remains under control and activity recovers later this year, China is projected to slow to 1 percent in 2020—by far the lowest growth it has registered in more than four decades. Due to the negative spillovers from weakness in major economies, alongside the disruptions associated with their own domestic outbreaks, EMDE GDP is forecast to contract by 2.5 percent in 2020. This would be well below the previous trough in EMDE growth of 0.9 percent in 1982, and the lowest rate since at least 1960, the earliest year with available aggregate data. With advanced economies contracting, China experiencing record-low growth, and EMDE growth savaged by external and domestic headwinds, the global economy is expected to shrink by 5.2 percent this year in a baseline forecast.


Upside Scenario

Under this downside scenario, global growth would shrink almost 8 percent in 2020. The recovery that follows would be markedly sluggish, hampered by severely impaired balance sheets, and heightened financial market stress and widespread bankruptcies in EMDEs. In 2021, global growth would barely begin to recover, increasing to just over 1 percent. In contrast, in an upside scenario, a sharp economic rebound would begin promptly if pandemic-control measures could be largely lifted in the near term, and fiscal and monetary policy responses succeed in supporting consumer and investor confidence, leading to a prompt normalization of financial conditions and the unleashing of pent-up demand. However, even with these positive developments, the near-term contraction in global activity of more than 3 percent in 2020 would still be much larger than during the global recession of 2009, and EMDE growth would also be negative. Once pandemic control measures are fully lifted, global growth would rebound markedly in 2021, to above 5 percent. Policymakers face formidable challenges as they seek to contain the devastating health, macroeconomic, and social effects of the pandemic. During the last global recession, in 2009, many EMDEs were able to implement large -scale fiscal and monetary responses. Today, however, many EMDEs are less prepared to weather a global downturn and must simultaneously grapple with a severe public health crisis with heavy human costs.

A gradual recovery is assumed to start during the second half of the year as controls are lifted, travel returns to more typical levels, and manufacturers rebuild inventories. This recovery is expected to be historically feeble, however, reflecting the exceptional character of the present crisis, as well as the length of time that it will take to restore confidence, to replace bankrupted firms, and to establish virus-safe working and entertainment environments. In particular, services do not benefit as much as manufacturing when inventories are restocked, and when purchases of durables pick up after a period of being deferred.


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