IMF urges continued strong fiscal, monetary support given uncertainty

FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters building is seen in Washington, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The International Monetary Fund is urging countries to continue strong fiscal and monetary efforts to support their economies given continued uncertainty about the risks posed by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and new variants.

"The global economy is at a critical juncture," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters at an online briefing. "There remains a great deal of uncertainty ... and the prospect for a still very difficult period ahead with infection surges and people continuing to suffer."

Rice said the IMF would release an updated global economic forecast on Jan. 26 that would reflect recent developments, including development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and fresh stimulus measures in the United States and Japan.

In October, the Fund forecast a 4.4% global GDP contraction for 2020, followed by a rebound to growth of 5.2% for 2021.

More than 92.22 million people have been infected by the novel coronavirus globally and nearly 2 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.

IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath last week said economic stimulus measures in the United States and Japan would help to power a recovery in their economies in the second half of 2021, and suggested possible upgrades were in the offing.

But Rice underscored the need to continued unprecedented fiscal and monetary efforts to support economic recovery.

It was "certainly no time to let up on our efforts," Rice said, calling for continued strong monetary and fiscal measures.

U.S. economic stimulus funds approved at the end of 2020 — and reports of additional possible measures — were encouraging, he said.

He condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump that left five dead.

"These events underscore the importance of peaceful and civil discourse, and the need to nurture and protect strong and independent institutions," he said.

In Japan, Rice said the Fund was forecasting a gradual recovery in 2021, with some upside relative to its last projection of 2.3% growth, given strong growth in the third quarter and a third stimulus package announced in December.

"We expect the recovering to pick up in the second quarter, supported by pent-up demand and restored business confidence, along with support from fiscal and monetary policies," he said, without providing details of any new forecast.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal)

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