IMF Warns Global Recovery Might Not Be Sustained


Rich and emerging economies must dramatically change the way they trade with each other or risk throttling the global economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

In its latest economic outlook, the IMF said growth would slow more than previously expected in 2011, as the United States, Europe and Japan continue to struggle and China remains overly dependent on exports.

The recovery is “neither strong nor balanced and runs the risk of not being sustained,” warned Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist.

Painting a picture of a faltering developed world – where business is still struggling to pick up where government crisis spending left off – the IMF predicted global growth would be pared back to 4.2 percent next year.

That is less than the 4.8 percent growth expected this year and 0.2 point below the IMF’s July forecast for 2011.

While restocking had helped short-term growth in the United States, Japan and some parts of Europe, the IMF said advanced economies were still reliant on dwindling government spending.

“For the past year or so, inventory accumulation and fiscal stimulus were driving the recovery. The first is coming to an end. The second is slowly being phased out,” the IMF said in its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook.

The IMF slashed its US growth forecast for 2011, to 2.3 percent, lopping 0.6 points off its July forecasts.

The growth forecast was also trimmed for this year, down 0.7 points to 2.2 percent, with warnings of “a weak recovery in coming quarters.”

The IMF recommended that some central banks, like the US Federal Reserve, continue their ultra-loose monetary policies, but warned the impact of such policies would now be limited.

“Not much more can be done, and one should not expect too much from further quantitative or credit easing.”

Increased exports must take up the slack, it added.

“Many advanced economies, most notably the United States, which relied excessively on domestic demand, must now rely more on net exports.”

Meanwhile the IMF said that rich countries, many of which are heavily in debt, would have to trim spending and balance their books in the medium term.

“Fiscal stimulus has to eventually give way to fiscal consolidation, and private demand must be strong enough to take the lead and sustain growth.”

There was a particular warning for Europe, with “severe external financing constraints” forecast for debt-laden Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

The picture could not be more different for emerging markets like India and China, where growth continues, but is limited by an over-dependence on exports to Europe, Japan and the United States that must be addressed.

“Emerging market economies with large current account surpluses must accelerate rebalancing. This is not only in the world economy’s interest, but also in their own.”

Wading into sensitive political waters, the IMF said China must allow its currency to strengthen to boost domestic demand and reduce its reliance on exports.

“To the extent that a stronger Chinese currency eases this process, other surplus countries in the region could follow suit, which would facilitate the needed shift towards domestic sources of growth,” the IMF said.

Emerging markets are expected to expand at a rate of 7.1 percent this year and 6.4 percent in 2011.

Advanced economies are expected to grow more slowly, at 2.7 percent in 2010 and 2.2 percent next year.

The WEO report came ahead of Friday’s opening of a two-day annual meeting of the IMF, where its 187 member nations are set to focus on a looming currency war and the dangers of protectionist trading policies.

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