The effects of a persistently weak economy and high long-term unemployment can reverberate through a country’s economy long into the future—commonly referred to by economists as hysteresis. Our analysis shows that the large and sustained output gap, the difference between what an economy could produce and what it is producing, raises the danger that a downturn reduces the economy’s productive capacity and permanently depresses potential GDP.
We’ve just updated our latest assessment of the state of government finances, debts, and deficits in advanced and emerging economies. Fiscal adjustment is continuing in the advanced economies at a speed that is broadly appropriate, and roughly what we projected three months ago. In emerging economies there’s a pause in fiscal adjustment this year and next, but this too is generally appropriate, given that many of these countries have low debt and deficits.
The crisis has harmed growth, increased unemployment, and left a large number of people less protected. We are now seeing some signs of stabilization. Most countries are reducing their deficits and even if debt ratios are still rising, the return back to fiscal health has begun.
Geopolitical tension affecting the oil market is surely a risk. The main risk remains, however, that of another acute crisis in Europe. The building of the “firewalls”, when it is completed, will represent major progress. By themselves, however, firewalls cannot solve the difficult fiscal, competitiveness, and growth issues that some of these countries face. Bad news on the macroeconomic or the political front still carries the risk of triggering the type of dynamics we saw last fall.
Clearly, global uncertainties have weighed on Latin America, but most economies are nevertheless growing close to potential and operating near full capacity, as shown by record low unemployment in many economies. Demand and credit growth have moderated, but continue to expand briskly, in some countries supported by public financial institutions. Overall, Latin America stands out as a relatively bright spot in a gloomy world scene.
"Derailment of the global recovery, which was a clear and distinct danger a few months ago, has been avoided for now thanks to strong policy measures--in particular those of the European Central Bank--and strengthened governance in the euro area, and reforms and adjustment in countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece," Lagarde said. "High frequency indicators also now suggest an uptick in activity, mostly in the United States."
The world recovery, which was weak in the first place, is in danger of stalling. The epicenter of the danger is Europe, but the rest of the world is increasingly affected.
As 2011 draws to a close, the recovery in many advanced economies is at a standstill, with some investors even exploring the implications of a potential breakup of the euro zone, and the real possibility that conditions may be worse than we saw in 2008. Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's Chief Economist, draws four main lessons in his year in review.
A clear lesson is that even rapid economic growth cannot be maintained unless it is inclusive, creates jobs for the growing labor force, and is accompanied by social policies for the most vulnerable. F from the Arab Spring is that economic reforms to be sustainable, their gains must be broadly shared, not just captured by a privileged few. Widespread corruption is not just an unacceptable affront to the dignity of citizens, it also deprives them of the economic benefits. And the absence of transparent and fair rules of the game will inevitably undermine inclusive growth.
The most likely scenario for the U.K. economy is that it will gradually recover, although it will face continued headwinds from a soft housing market, household and financial sector deleveraging, and ongoing consolidation of the budget.