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Global economy may not fully recover from the coronavirus crisis by 2021, IMF chief economist says

International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath speaks during a press conference in Washington D.C., on April 9, 2019.

Liu Jie | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Global economic activity, which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, may not fully recover even by the end of 2021, said Gita Gopinath, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

The fund this week downgraded its economic forecast. It now expects the global economy to shrink by 3% this year before growing 5.8% next year — a rebound that Gopinath described as a “partial recovery.”

“We have a recovery projected for 2021 of 5.8% growth, but that is a partial recovery,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.  

“So even by the end of 2021, we’re expecting level of economic activity to be below what we had projected before the virus,” she added.

The fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected more than 2 million people globally, has led authorities to shut schools and businesses — bringing much of the world’s economic activity to a halt.

Governments and central banks around the world have stepped in with measures to help businesses and households to survive the crisis — a response that Gopinath said has been “aggressive” and “rapid.”

“I think if you compare that to the global financial crisis … the response has been just that much speedier and the scale of it has been that much bigger,” she said, noting that economies around the world have announced about $8 trillion worth of fiscal stimulus.

But she also said that the amount of stimulus is not “equally distributed” across economies, with around $7 trillion coming from G-20 countries.

“The concern we have is more about developing and emerging economies that have less of a fiscal space, have to deal with external account problems, and I think they’re in a tougher spot,” she said.

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