IMF warns economy recovery threatened by virus, inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning of rising threats to the global economic recovery posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and an outbreak of inflation.

The lending agency called on Thursday for greater efforts from wealthy nations to boost coronavirus vaccination rates in poorer countries, while also urging the Federal Reserve and other central banks to respond quickly if current inflation pressures prove not to be transitory.

The IMF panel that sets policy for the 190-nation organisation wrapped up its annual meeting with a joint statement expressing concerns about the wide divergence in vaccination rates between wealthy and poor countries.

The group urged greater efforts by wealthy nations toward achieving a goal of having 40 per cent of the population of all countries vaccinated by the end of this year and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

While nearly 60 per cent of the population in advanced economies are now fully vaccinated, only about four per cent of the population in poorer countries are.

“We will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints,” the finance officials pledged.

Activists holding cardboard cutouts of President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi protest outside of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters during the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington on October 13. PHOTO: AP

“The emergence of virus variants has increased uncertainty and risks to the recovery are tilted to the downside,” the group said. “The crisis is exacerbating poverty and inequality.”

The United States (US) was represented at the finance meetings by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

The finance officials also noted rising global inflation pressures and said the Fed and other central banks need to “act appropriately” if the price spikes prove to be more of a threat to the economic recovery.

The Fed signalled last month that it soon could begin the process of unwinding some of the extraordinary support it put in place in response to last year’s coronavirus-triggered recession. The move would be a first step toward possible interest rate hikes that would slow growth and keep inflation under control.

The IMF issued an updated economic forecast this week that slightly downgraded its forecast for global growth to 5.9 per cent from six per cent in July. The downgrade reflected persistent supply chain disruptions and the wide disparity in vaccination rates. For the US, the IMF forecast growth of six per cent this year, down from its July forecast of seven per cent.

The IMF policy panel also endorsed the findings of the agency’s executive board on Monday of “full confidence” in IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

The support for Georgieva came following an investigation into allegations that, while a top official at the World Bank, she and other World Bank officials pressured staff to boost the rankings of China and other countries in an influential business-climate survey that has since been discontinued.

Georgieva told reporters on Wednesday that the review showed there was no “there there” to the charges.