Defeating pandemic is global priority, says IMF official

Multilateral lender says it has provided more than $105 billion, but worldwide economic growth forecast of 5.5% in 2021 is dependent on progress against coronavirus

Defeating pandemic is global priority, says IMF official
Countries such as Vietnam, pictured, have the pandemic largely under control. But IMF official Antoinette Sayeh said "we cannot achieve a sustainable recovery anywhere unless we defeat the pandemic everywhere". Photo: Reuters

(ATF) Defeating the coronavirus pandemic is the world's number one economic priority, a senior IMF official said on February 6.

While the global economy has started to climb back from the crisis, the recent resurgence in infections and spread of new variants is delaying a recovery, according to Antoinette Sayeh, the fund's deputy managing director. 

“It is also a powerful reminder that we cannot achieve a sustainable recovery anywhere unless we defeat the pandemic everywhere," she told the annual Warwick Economics Summit, a student-run international forum hosted by the UK's University of Warwick.

Sayeh said the IMF had approved more than $105bn in financing for 85 countries since the beginning of the pandemic. 

DEBT RELIEF

“We expanded concessional financing for low-income countries and provided immediate debt relief to 29 of the poorest, most vulnerable ones,” she said.

Earlier this month, the fund forecast global growth at 5.5 per cent in 2021, but Sayeh said that was subject to the progress of the pandemic.

“[Our forecast] reflects the positive effects of vaccinations in some countries, adaptation to containment measures, and continued policy support,” she told the meeting. 

“But just to be clear, we are still only in February, and there is tremendous uncertainty around this forecast — especially considering that we ended 2020 with a contraction of 3.5 per cent," she added.

“Our immediate priority must be to bring the health crisis under control.”

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