It is with some relief that we can see the economic outlook brightening, but with some discomfort that it is doing so in a very uneven way. Amid renewed virus outbreaks, less frequent but more dispersed throughout the world, global growth continues to recover. We are projecting global output to rise by nearly 6% this year, an impressive surge after the 3½ per cent contraction in 2020. While the recovery will bring most of the world back to pre-pandemic GDP levels by the end of 2022, this is far from enough. The global economy remains below its pre-pandemic growth path and in too many OECD countries living standards by the end of 2022 will not be back to the level expected before the pandemic.
Swift policy actions have paved the way for the health and economic recovery. Sixteen months into the pandemic, many countries are coping better with new outbreaks of the virus. Governments have administered close to 2 billion vaccine doses and the global capacity to test, produce and administer vaccines has improved rapidly. The unprecedented protective policy net that governments deployed has preserved the economic fabric, firms and jobs in most advanced and some emerging-market economies. Never in a crisis has policy support – be it health, with the record speed of vaccine development, monetary, fiscal or financial – been so swift and effective. As a result, the manufacturing sector is growing rapidly, merchandise trade is rebounding strongly as borders gradually reopen and travel is slowly resuming. Moreover, reopening is being accompanied by a surge in consumption and hours worked. This is very encouraging, as it should limit the scars that arise from the crisis.
Yet, too many headwinds persist.
It is very disturbing that not enough vaccines are reaching emerging and low-income economies. This is exposing these economies to a fundamental threat because they have less policy capacity to support activity than advanced economies. A renewed virus-driven weakening of growth would be harder to cushion, resulting in further increases in acute poverty and potentially sovereign funding issues if financial markets were to become concerned. This is all the more troubling because, notwithstanding the impact on lives and livelihoods, the global economic and social cost of maintaining closed borders dwarfs the costs of making vaccines, tests and health supplies more widely available to these countries.
More broadly, as long as the vast majority of the global population is not vaccinated, all of us remain vulnerable to the emergence of new variants. Confidence could be seriously eroded by further lockdowns, and a stop-and-go of economic activities. Firms, so far well protected but often with higher debt than before the pandemic, could go bankrupt. The most vulnerable members of society would risk further suffering from prolonged spells of inactivity or reduced income, exacerbating inequalities, across and within countries, and potentially destabilising economies.
A new, much-debated risk is the possibility of higher inflation. Commodity prices have been rising fast. Bottlenecks in some sectors and disruptions to trade are creating price tensions. These disruptions should start to fade towards the end of the year, as production capacity normalises and consumption rebalances from goods towards services. There is still a lot of slack in labour markets, restraining wage growth. Against this backdrop, as long as inflation expectations remain well anchored and wage growth remains subdued, we are confident that central banks will remain vigilant but look through these temporary price rises. What is of most concern, in our view, is the risk that financial markets fail to look through temporary price increases and relative price adjustments, pushing market interest rates and volatility higher. Vigilance is needed.
When bottlenecks arise in sectors where production is heavily concentrated, like electronic chips, threatening large parts of the supply chain, governments should do their utmost to reduce such tensions, through more co-operation on trade and measures to diversify the sources of supply. One of the key lessons of this crisis is to pay more attention to the resilience of supply chains, as underlined by the price spikes in sectors where production is overly concentrated. More broadly, governments also have a role to play to address inflation threats by pursuing policies that lift potential output growth and strengthen competition and trade.
As countries transition towards better prospects it would be dangerous to believe that governments are already doing enough to propel growth to a higher and better path, especially keeping in mind the objective of decarbonisation. Flexible, state-contingent measures for people and firms are essential to anchor expectations that fiscal support will be maintained and targeted as long as economies are not back to, or close to, full employment. In particular, shoring up the balance sheets of viable small firms through deferred taxes or grants is crucial. Moreover, it is essential that sufficient public investment is made available for the digital and green transitions and that the funds are swiftly and efficiently spent. This would help to also encourage private investment in these areas. Finally, confidence would be bolstered by signalling that a clear, effective and sustainable fiscal framework is to be put in place and medium-term fiscal plans are starting to be developed, based on reviews of public spending to ensure priorities match ambitions and citizens’ needs, and reassessments of taxation to ensure a fair, efficient and progressive tax system.
The world economy is currently navigating towards the recovery, with lots of frictions. The risk that sufficient post-pandemic growth is not achieved or widely shared is elevated. This will very much depend on the adoption of flexible and sustainable policy frameworks, and on the quality of international cooperation.
The American Rescue Plan is set to boost global growth
by Nigel Pain and Patrice Ollivaud, OECD Economics Department
Global economic prospects have improved markedly in recent months, helped by the gradual deployment of effective vaccines against Covid-19, announcements of additional policy support in several countries, and signs that economies are coping better with measures to supress the virus. This is reflected in the stronger recovery shown in the new OECD Interim Economic Outlook, with global GDP growth now projected to be 5½ per cent in 2021 and 4% in 2022.
Strong and timely fiscal support since the onset of the pandemic has played a vital role in supporting incomes and preserving jobs and businesses. This should be maintained whilst economies are still fragile and growth remains hampered by containment measures and incomplete vaccination deployment. As economies reopen, new discretionary fiscal measures can also be an effective means of helping to close the large shortfalls of output and jobs from their normal, pre-pandemic levels.
The substantial fiscal support being provided in the United States this year is an important factor behind the improved global outlook. Already, the package of measures enacted in December 2020, worth USD 900 billion (4% of GDP), has boosted household incomes and, to a smaller extent, consumer spending at the start of 2021. The new American Rescue Plan of USD 1.9 trillion (8½ per cent of baseline GDP) provides a considerably larger additional stimulus that should raise aggregate demand substantially in the United States, with welcome spillovers for activity around the world. There is likely to be a clear immediate boost from stimulus payments to households, which represent around one-fifth of the overall package of measures. Other measures in the Plan are only partly pandemic-related and will take effect over the next year or so. Futher details on the content of the American Rescue Plan will be provided in a future blogpost.
Illustrative simulations on the NiGEM global macroeconomic model suggest that the measures in the American Rescue Plan could raise US output by around 3-4 per cent on average in the first full year of the package (from 2021Q2 to 2022Q1). This is broadly equivalent to the spare capacity estimated to exist in the US economy in the December 2020 OECD Economic Outlook.
The US upturn also helps to stimulate demand in all other economies. Output is raised by between ½‑1 percentage point in Canada and Mexico, both close trading partners of the United States, and between ¼‑½ percentage point in the euro area, Japan and China (see Figure). Overall, global GDP is boosted by around 1% during this period.
In these simulations, stronger US domestic demand improves near-term job prospects, with US employment rising by between 2¼‑3 million by the end of 2021 and the unemployment rate declining by between 1¼-2 percentage points. The demand upturn also boosts import growth and widens the US current account deficit by around ¾ per cent of GDP on average in the first four quarters of the shock, despite higher US exports due to stronger foreign demand. US price inflation picks up temporarily, by around ¾ percentage point per annum on average in the first two years of the shock, but not to a rate that would necessarily require any immediate policy tightening by the Federal Reserve given the new US monetary policy framework. The overall budgetary cost in the near term is lower than the size of the stimulus, with higher nominal activity offsetting around one-quarter of the cost of the discretionary stimulus measures. Even so, the US general government debt-to-GDP ratio is raised by 6 percentage points by 2023.
These simulations show the impact of an illustrative mix of higher transfers to households, stronger final government consumption and tax reductions introduced over 2021Q2-2022Q2. The near-term impact of the US fiscal package will be relatively large if consumers are “backward-looking” and more sensitive to current income developments and the impact of higher government transfer payments. In contrast, “forward-looking” consumers, more focused on the lifetime income path of incomes and the potential budgetary offset from higher tax payments in the future, may spend less of the stimulus, resulting in smaller spillovers to other countries.
In either case, there are substantial near-term gains to output and the risks of lasting damage from a slow recovery have been reduced considerably. Further ahead, the direct impact of the Plan on output and inflation may be modest, reflecting the temporary nature of the fiscal stimulus, although there could be a lasting boost to the size of the labour force from attracting back previously discouraged workers. Growth prospects would also be improved if innovation and investment were raised permanently (relative to baseline). A faster recovery from the pandemic and additional policy measures to help foster investment would raise the chances of such an outcome.
The need for speed: Putting the World Economy on the Fast Track out of the COVID-19 crisis
by Laurence Boone, OECD Chief Economist
This is no ordinary economic crisis. When you walk down the street of a big city like Paris, its hard not to miss the usually lively restaurants, bars and museums. Travel and activity restrictions – completely unfamiliar to most of us just one year ago, have now become a part of our daily lives. In early March 2020, the OECD warned that COVID-19 could have devasting effects on the world economy. One year later, amid high uncertainty, a global recovery is in sight.
We have upgraded our growth projections
The good news is that the world economy is doing better than what we expected only three months ago. Countries are learning to better address the health situation, some are rolling out vaccines and are gradually lifting restrictions to mobility. People and firms have also adapted: producing, trading and consuming differently in this new world of restrictions.
Undeniably, policy support helps. The exceptional fiscal and monetary support that countries have deployed to protect firms and people is working – supporting jobs, incomes and firms. In addition, the massive foreseen US stimulus (USD 1.9 trillion in addition to USD 900 billion in December 2020) will boost the US economy in 2021 and add a full percent to world output in our projection as discussed in our recent post on the American rescue plan.
As a result, we project global growth of 5.6% in 2021 (Table 1), up from 4.2% in our December projections. Most countries are bouncing back, but activity levels remain far behind where we expected them to be in our November 2019 projections before the pandemic. Moreover, divergence in economic performance across and within countries is set to increase.
The best economic policy to exit this global pandemic is rapid vaccination, worldwide
Differences in health management and vaccine rollout, and consequently restrictions, as well as sectoral specialisation in hard-hit sectors such as tourism and policy support are driving the increase in divergence. Several emerging market economies, as well as European ones, are lagging behind in the recovery (Figure 1).
To speed up the rollout of vaccines, policymakers need to get on a wartime footing with vaccine production and distribution. Production is currently being scaled up thanks to voluntary licensing, but more can be done. Governments should encourage the maximum use of existing manufacturing vaccine facilities and distribution networks, while fast-tracking consents for new facilities where necessary. This means using government purchasing leverage to foster private sector licensing, transfer of technology deals and a cooperative effort across firms that would normally be competitors. Regarding the distribution of vaccines, this means governments requiring and funding vaccination centres to operate seven days per week and long hours.
To be effective, vaccine rollout needs to be not only fast, but also global. This is the only way to win the race against virus mutations and to fully reopen sectors such as travel and tourism, which accounts for over 20% of GDP in some countries. As long as the virus is raging somewhere, the risk of new virus variants is high, which will mean that we will need to keep some borders shut, restraining activity. A coordinated and multilateral approach to licensing and technology transfers, as well as purchasing, notably through increasing funding to COVAX, is the most efficient way of scaling up production and distribution worldwide, and especially in emerging markets.
Fiscal support has been key in preserving the economic and social fabric
Widespread vaccination will also make fiscal and monetary support more effective. The countries that are able to combine fast vaccination with supportive macroeconomic policies are the ones expected to benefit from faster recoveries (Figure 2). As our economies re-open, many entertainment hotel and restaurant workers can hope to get back to work. But, prospects are not the same for everyone. Following the Global Financial Crisis, young people struggled to find employment and policy was too slow to react – it took a decade for the employment prospects of graduates to “normalise” (Figure 3). To avoid such a negative outcome and the scarring effects of unemployment this time around, fiscal policy needs to be better targeted at supporting young people, for example by introducing wage subsidies to help firms expand apprenticeship and in-firm training programmes. It also needs to make use of the opportuntity to pave the way forward for a better future – fixing the massive digital divide exposed by the pandemic and directing investment to support environmental sustainability.
With the arrival of vaccines, the world economy will eventually fully re-open for business. But how the recovery is going to shape up is in the hands of policymakers: swift vaccination, targeted fiscal support and ramping up investment in new and green technologies can make a difference. Many challenges lie ahead but this crisis has taught us the importance of resilience: our ability to both avoid and respond to shocks. And, without multilateral co-operation the global recovery in growth and the jobs that go with it are at risk. There is no time to waste!
President Biden’s policy priorities and their impact on the economic outlook
By Miguel R. Gorman, OECD Washington Center, Patrick Lenain, OECD Economics Department, Carl Romer, Brookings Institution, and Ben Westmore, OECD Economics Department
The inauguration of President Biden on January 20 in Washington, D.C, marked the launch of an ambitious policy agenda for the four-year mandate. As he made clear during his inaugural address, President Biden has broad policy priorities in terms of health, jobs, income, climate and equity. If approved by Congress and fully implemented by his administration, these policies will boost the economic recovery in the short term and, in the medium term, will improve the wellbeing of Americans.
US economic situation in early 2021
The US economy has rebounded quickly since the second quarter of 2020, when workers in many states were ordered to stay at home and many businesses were ordered to shut their doors. GDP is now expected by the consensus of economists to have contracted by only 2.5% in 2020 (Q4 over Q4), a much less severe fall than feared initially. After jumping to 13% in May, the unemployment rate quickly dropped below 7% by the end of the year. Boosted by the large fiscal stimulus and monetary support, consumer demand has revived, putting the economy on a pathway toward recovery.
However, these average numbers do not tell the whole story: the pandemic has not impacted all Americans equally. While high-wage workers experienced the recession during only a few weeks and are now in near-normal employment conditions, others have been hit by job losses and are facing weak demand for their labour (Figure 1). Low-wage workers are still unemployed in sectors operating well below capacity such as hospitality, travel, tourism and entertainment. For them, unemployment benefits are essential to make ends meet.
Source: Chetty et al (2020), Opportunity Insights. Change in employment rates (not seasonally adjusted), indexed to January 4-31, 2020. This series is based on payroll data from Paychex and Intuit, worker-level data on employment and earnings from Earnin, and timesheet data from Kronos. The dotted line in the low-wage series is a prediction of employment rates based on Kronos data.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the existing gaps in income and wealth separating those living in poverty from the well-offs. Job losses have also been disproportionately concentrated in Black and Latino communities, with women particularly hard hit. The pandemic has also highlighted the inadequacies of the health system, where many remain uninsured and even more are under-insured and unable to obtain adequate healthcare when needed.
With COVID-19 contagions and deaths still at record levels (Figure 2), a key priority of the Biden-Harris Administration will be to reduce the spread of the virus and high death tolls. Investment in contact tracing capacity will likely be increased via the US Public Health Jobs Corps, which will hire and deploy 100,000 public health workers. The new administration has also vowed to take a more active role in vaccine distribution, given much of the responsibility to date has been shouldered by state governments, without clear coordination. In the meantime, President Biden has halted the US withdrawal from the World Health Organisation.
The new administration is also prioritising additional fiscal measures to support the economic recovery. The fiscal package of US$900 billion agreed at the end of 2020 is helpful, but insufficient, providing only modest support to the economy beyond Q1 2021. A new package worth US$1.9 trillion (9% of GDP) has been outlined, with spending largely distributed this year. The proposed fiscal package would include another direct cash payment to all Americans (US$1,400 per person), in addition to the previous two payments; it would expand emergency paid leave and unemployment programs, while increasing the minimum wage to US$15; it would extend a 15% increase of benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; it would expand tax credits for children and child care and reducing health insurance premiums; it would offer grants and investment capital to small businesses; finally, as in some other OECD countries, it would provide funding to help victims of domestic violence. Some of these new initiatives, as well as those designed to contain the pandemic, would entail additional federal funding to state and local governments.
Making growth more inclusive and less carbon-intensive
President Biden has said that longer-term reforms will make growth more inclusive and less carbon intensive (Figure 3). This may include automatic unemployment insurance stabilizers and tax increases for high-income earners and corporations. In addition, significant increase in infrastructure spending could be legislated as well as investment to decarbonise the economy and mitigate climate change. Such pledges accord with the recommendations outlined in the 2020 OECD Economic Survey of the United States. President Biden re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of his presidency and intends to introduce more stringent fuel efficiency standards and bolster the climate policies of federal agencies.
Working with international partners
President Biden has signalled he would approach international cooperation in a different way, with the objective to “repair alliances and engage with the world once again”. A renewed US commitment to work with international partners to address shared challenges will likely lead to a more ambitious agenda notably on COVID-19, global recovery, climate change, swelling debts in developing countries, trade imbalances, and international corporate taxation.
A bipartisan approach to the reform agenda?
Although President Biden enters office with a united government, his slim majority in both chambers of Congress may make it difficult to enact some aspects of his policy agenda. A simple majority is needed for legislation attached to the budget process (i.e. budget reconciliation legislation) and nominations to executive branch positions and judicial vacancies also only require a simple majority. However, changes not related to the budget, such as related to climate, immigration, minimum wages and labour regulations could be difficult to legislate if the filibuster remains in place (as it means legislation will need 60 votes to pass the Senate compared with the 51 effective votes Democrats currently hold). Similarly, the introduction of a public health insurance option may face resistance. A bi-partisan approach would be essential for all these policies.
The President has already started to act through Executive Orders. He has announced that he will reinstate environmental regulations. Furthermore, new measures including new appliance and building efficiency standards and changes to make federal government procurement more climate-friendly may be introduced via this pathway. Even so, it is possible that Executive Orders will face challenges in the courts.
What does this mean for the economy?
Overall, the stated policies of the incoming administration would – if implemented — likely boost economic growth in the short-term and make growth more inclusive and less carbon intensive in the medium-term. A well-timed fiscal stimulus would help avoid the recovery losing momentum in early 2021; instead of expanding by about 3½ percent (y-o-y) next year, as projected by the OECD, GDP growth could be notably stronger if much of the proposed stimulus is approved. The immigration and health care policies of the new administration are likely to increase potential labour resources, supporting growth and public finances. While stricter environmental standards may inhibit firm growth, this is typically not the case for more productive firms. Furthermore, such standards have the capacity to drive innovation in environmentally friendly technologies.
Will new monetary policy frameworks succeed in achieving inflation targets?
By Damien Puy, Łukasz Rawdanowicz and Kimiaki Shinozaki, OECD Economics Department
Monetary policy has been successful in influencing financial markets, the first stage of monetary policy pass‑through to demand and inflation. But over the past two decades, core inflation in advanced economies has rarely risen above targets. Recently discussed and implemented changes to monetary policy frameworks, which all depend crucially on the inflation expectations channel, could help improve the effectiveness of monetary policy and achieve stable and higher inflation.However, challenges with controlling inflation expectations, the uncertainty surrounding their effect on demand, along with continued structural changes holding down inflation all point to caution (OECD, 2020).
Monetary policy reviews
A combination of deep structural changes and unexpected shocks has challenged the way monetary policy is conducted in many advanced countries. The secular decline in productivity growth and inflation, along with the reduction in the so-called neutral interest rates, which balance aggregate demand and supply, have significantly increased the risk that policy rates hit the zero lower bound. The global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which prompted very accommodative policy and an enlargement of monetary policy tools, including purchases of public and private assets, forward guidance and negative policy interest rates, further highlighted the limits of conventional monetary policy measures.
In this context, radical and comprehensive alternatives to current frameworks have been discussed in both academic and policy circles and several central banks in advanced economies have embarked on formal monetary policy reviews. The alternatives include raising the inflation target and one of the so-called make-up strategies, like targeting an explicit price (or nominal GDP) level, where past misses of the target should be compensated in the future. Their efficacy crucially hinges on the population’s understanding of, and reaction to, monetary policy commitments and strong effects of demand-supply imbalances on inflation – i.e. a steep Phillips curve. The Bank of Japan’s “inflation‑overshooting commitment” announced in September 2016 can be regarded as a form of a make-up strategy. Similarly, the switch to a flexible form of average inflation targeting (FAIT) will take the US Federal Reserve closer to a price-level targeting, since the FOMC will de facto aim to make up for past inflation misses. The ECB is in the process of reviewing its framework.
When interest rates are low and close to the ZLB, the scope to stimulate demand through yield curve changes, and in turn inflation, is limited. In this case, inflation expectations become the main available channel to boost inflation, as assumed by many make-up strategies. However, three challenges may reduce the effectiveness of inflation expectations as a practical policy channel.
Although firms set prices of most goods and services, little is known about their inflation expectations. Surveys of firms’ aggregate inflation expectations are rare and of limited quality, in contrast to surveys of households’ expectations (Coibion et al., 2020a).
Both households and businesses are generally poorly informed about realised and expected inflation, or inflation targets, and their expectations have been persistently above targets (figure below). Households have a limited understanding of monetary policy announcements and expectations of neither households nor firms seem to respond much to such communications (Coibion et al., 2020a; Coibion et al., 2020b).
Evidence is mixed about the impact of inflation expectations on households’ consumption. Under some circumstances, households’ expectations about future price changes can have a powerful impact on their consumption decisions (like for VAT rate increases). However, a durable boost to household consumption due to monetary policy forward‑guidance, even when well understood by consumers, may be less certain. Higher expected inflation may not stimulate aggregate consumption durably if real income is expected to decline or stagnate. With constant nominal income, higher inflation could just shift demand from non-essential goods and services to necessities. Higher inflation may also increase perceived uncertainty and result in higher household saving. Moreover, the effects of monetary policy are uncertain and refer to a distant future, which may be discounted by households and businesses in their consumption and investment decisions.
Structural shifts in supply and demand
Over the past three decades, a combination of structural changes in advanced economies, which are largely beyond monetary policy decisions and communications, have aggravated the challenge for central banks in attaining their inflation targets.
Globalisation, technological progress and market concentration: The integration of low-wage emerging‑market economies, in particular China, into global value chains (GVCs) combined with trade liberalisation over the past three decades has led to a substantial decline in production costs, expanded supply massively and increased import competition, putting a downward pressure on domestic producer goods prices. Globalisation has also coincided with a rapid technological progress in the production of many goods or their components, including electronics, adding to downward price pressures. The ensuing stronger import competition and rising market concentration can reduce the pass-through from wages to prices in goods-producing sectors.
Retail sector and network industries: In the United States, over the past three decades, the retail sector has changed from one with many small firms to one dominated by large firms, with large retailers increasingly sourcing from China (Smith, 2019). The rise of general merchandisers selling goods from different industries could have led to reduced margins on some goods to attract clients as profits are maximised at the chain level and not for individual goods. The past decades have also witnessed a global rise of e‑commerce, which could have damped prices by increasing price transparency and eroding profit margins, notably in some traditionally face-to-face businesses. A growing importance of network industries in services (like communication, TV and music streaming services, air transport) has also likely contributed to muted inflation developments. Maximisation of their profits depends on market share gains, limiting possibilities to increase prices persistently.
Weakening demand and large supply: Limited price pressures resulting from globalisation and technological progress may have been weakened further by the relative saturation of demand for many durable goods compared with ample production capacities. When a new product is developed, demand for it grows very fast and income elasticity of demand is high, stimulating production capacity and technological progress and leading over time to lower prices. When the desired level of possession of the product has been attained, “new demand” for buying the good for the first time vanishes and demand is driven by replacement or renewal motives only. As this phenomenon may affect many durable household products in advanced economies (cars, home appliances, etc.), the scope to increase prices for such goods, that still account for a considerable part of the consumption basket, may be limited by the fear of a fall in demand.
If the above structural trends persist in advanced economies, central banks may continue to struggle to achieve persistently higher inflation in the future. There is, however, large uncertainty about future structural developments, partly related to uncertain long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
Coibion, O., Y. Gorodnichenko, E. S. Knotek II and R. Schoenle (2020a), “Average Inflation Targeting and Household Expectations”, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Working Paper, 20-26.
Coibion, O., Y. Gorodnichenko, S. Kumar and M. Pedemonte (2020b), “Inflation Expectations as a Policy Tool?”, Journal of International Economics, 124.
Smith, D. (2019), “Concentration and Foreign Sourcing in the U.S. Retail Sector”, 2019 Meeting Papers, 1258, Society for Economic Dynamics.
Explaining cross-country differences in growth performance in the second quarter of 2020
By Nigel Pain and Łukasz Rawdanowicz, OECD Economics Department
In the second quarter of 2020, as the pandemic spread and many countries implemented strict containment measures, output and consumer spending declined sharply in most economies. However, the extent of the contraction differed significantly across countries, with GDP and private consumption falling by over 15% in some countries, and by 5% or less in others. This blog, based on the latest OECD Economic Outlook, highlights the strong cross-country association between activity, the strictness of containment measures and changes in mobility, complementing the detailed analysis of the relationship between mobility and containment policy measures in OECD (2020).
Containment measures are captured using the aggregate stringency index produced by the Oxford Blavatnik School of Government (Hale et al., 2020), and mobility by the Google location-based indicator of retail and recreational mobility, a measure of visits to places such as shopping centres, restaurants, theme parks, museums and cinemas. Changes in containment measures are associated with changes in mobility, but mobility measures may also pick up other factors, such as voluntary physical distancing, or a reluctance to leave the home when concerns about the pandemic are high. Both mobility and the stringency of containment measures are strongly correlated across countries with GDP growth and private consumption growth in the second quarter of 2020 (see figure).
Note: The panels show OECD countries and selected non-OECD advanced and emerging-market economies from Asia, Latin America and Africa for which data are available (China is excluded, as mobility data are not available). The country coverage differs between the two panels. The vertical axes show changes in the quarterly averages of the Oxford stringency index and the Google mobility index for the retail and recreation sector. Source: OECD Economic Outlook 108 database; Google LLC, Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility; Oxford Coronavirus government response tracker; and OECD calculations.
The relative importance of mobility and the stringency of containment measures can also be assessed by estimating cross‑country equations for quarterly changes in real GDP and private consumption in the second quarter of 2020. Two separate equations are estimated, one for GDP growth and the other for private consumption growth, to assess whether there are differences in the extent to which mobility and stringency affect different activity indicators. For instance, cross-country variation in GDP growth stems in part from factors that may be less directly affected by domestic containment measures, such as government consumption and exports. Both explanatory variables are expressed as the change in quarterly average values.
The equations are estimated for a group of advanced and emerging-market economies for which data are available, and exclude large outliers, leaving a sample of 43 economies for private consumption and 49 for GDP. Excluding the outliers sharpens the results without changing the estimated coefficients substantially. The sample for private consumption is smaller given fewer emerging-market economies with quarterly data for private consumption. In both equations, the two indicators are strongly statistically significant. This finding is robust to exclusion of the country outliers.
Both mobility and stringency are found to have been significantly associated with cross-country differences in growth outcomes in the second quarter of 2020.
An increase (tightening) of the Oxford stringency index by 10 points is estimated to be associated with a reduction of around 1 percentage point in quarterly GDP growth, for a given level of mobility. A decline of 10 points in the Google community mobility indicator is estimated to be associated with a reduction of around 1.7 percentage points in quarterly GDP growth, for a given level of stringency. For real private consumption growth, the respective numbers are 0.6 and 2.8 percentage points. The larger impact of the mobility indicator on consumption growth than on GDP growth may reflect the fact that retail and recreational mobility is more relevant for household consumption than for other economic activities.
The estimated equations account for roughly 60% of the cross-country variation in GDP growth and around 75% of the cross-country variation in private consumption growth.
For both GDP and private consumption equations, the residuals tend to be on average positive in Asia, where containment measures have been relatively mild in some countries, but negative in Europe, where more-restrictive measures were applied. This may point to some potential non-linearities in the aggregate relationships between growth, mobility and containment measures, or it may indicate that some particular types of containment measures, such as full shutdowns, have stronger effects than others.
It is too early to know whether the cross-sectional relationships found for the second quarter of 2020 can be used to help track output growth throughout the pandemic. However, initial estimates for GDP growth in the third quarter of 2020 are correlated with quarter-on-quarter changes in mobility across countries. The estimated relationships for the second quarter of 2020 also provide a guide for potential developments in the fourth quarter of 2020, suggesting that growth may again turn negative in countries that are tightening confinement measures substantially and experiencing marked declines in mobility indicators. However, the relation may be slightly weaker as some potentially hard-hit sectors have not reopened, or their activity remains subdued after the first round of containment measures. There may also have been a growing shift to on-line sales of goods and services, which might reduce the strength of the association between mobility and private consumption growth.
Can Google Trends be used to track economic activity in real-time?
by Nicolas Woloszko, OECD Economics Department
A pre-requisite for good macroeconomic policymaking is timely information on the current state of the economy, particularly when economic activity is changing rapidly. Given that GDP is usually only available on a quarterly basis and that monthly survey-based indicators (such as the Purchasing Managers’ Indices) can become unreliable when changes in economic activity are abrupt and massive, the current crisis has prompted a search for alternative high‑frequency indicators of economic activity. The OECD Economic Outlook (OECD, 2020) as well as a recent OECD paper (Woloszko, 2020) discuss one such indicator based on Google Trends, which are used to construct a Weekly Tracker that provides real-time estimates of GDP growth in 46 economies covering G20, OECD and OECD partner countries. To the author’s knowledge, the Tracker is the first weekly GDP proxy that covers such a large array of OECD and G20 countries.
What makes Google Trends a powerful tool for economic predictions is its coverage of a large number of aspects of economic activity. Data about search behaviour can be informative about consumption (e.g. related to searches for “vehicles”, “households appliances”), labour markets (e.g.“recruitment”), housing (e.g. “real estate agency”, “mortgage”), business services (e.g.“venture capital”, “bankruptcy”), industrial activity (e.g. “maritime transport”, “agricultural equipment”) as well as economic sentiment (e.g. “recession”) and poverty (e.g. “food bank”). Signals about multiple facets of the economy can be aggregated to infer a timely picture of the macro economy.
The relationship between Google Trends variables and GDP growth is fitted using a machine learning algorithm, drawing upon expertise in artificial intelligence developed in the OECD NAEC Innovation Lab. The algorithm (a “neural network”) extracts relevant information from 250 Google Trends variables, that each aggregate information about searches by Google users for thousands a keywords. Using many variables also reduces the risk related to structural breaks in specific series, which was highlighted by the failure of the “Google Flu” experiment.
The model of GDP growth based on Google Trends performs well across 46 countries in forecast simulations. It captures a sizeable share of business cycle variations, including during the global financial crisis, the euro area sovereign debt crisis as well as around the exceptional volatility associated with the current COVID-crisis.
The timing of the sharp second quarter downturn in 2020 is signalled well before more conventional business cycle indicators and coincides closely with the implementation of lockdown measures (Figure 1), although the full magnitude of the negative shock is typically under‑estimated, given its unprecedented scale. The Tracker suggests that in a number of countries a partial recovery began towards the end of April, with impetus slowing from June. Predictions for the third quarter proved more accurate, with a mean absolute error of around one percentage point and no evidence of systematic bias, compared with variation in quarter-on-quarter growth of between 2% and 18% across the countries in the sample. The performance of the model over the crisis period is particularly impressive when assessed for those few countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, that publish monthly estimates of GDP. Latest estimates suggest a further brake on activity in those, mostly European countries, which imposed further lockdown measures in November (OECD, 2020).
Woloszko, N. (2020), “A Weekly Tracker of activity based on machine learning and Google Trends”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 1634, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/6b9c7518-en.
 This note is based on an OECD Working Paper (Woloszko, 2020) as well as the Chapter 2 of the OECD Economic Outlook (OECD (2020), Issue Note 1).
 In 2009, Google started tracking influenza epidemics based on searches for “influenza” or related symptoms (Ginsberg et al., 2009). In 2013, the experiment was shown to be limited by media coverage of influenza epidemics during major outbreaks that were causing surges in Google searches unrelated to the virus propagation (Butler, 2013).
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sectoral output
by Nigel Pain, OECD Economics Department
The economic impact of the pandemic has varied significantly across different industries. Monthly economy-wide output data and the special business surveys being undertaken in some countries provide a timely indication of the different impact of the pandemic across types of activity, both in the early stages of the crisis and subsequently. As shown in the December OECD Economic Outlook, the containment measures used in response to the pandemic and underlying changes in consumer behaviour have both had a significant impact on activity, particularly in many service sectors.
In the first wave of the pandemic, output fell especially sharply in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, where full economy-wide confinement was required for an extended period (see first figure). By April, retail and wholesale trade volumes in these countries were over one-third lower than in February, prior to the pandemic. Retail output also declined by over one-quarter in Canada. In contrast, many other countries, particularly in Asia and Northern Europe, made greater use of targeted measures on regions and sectors and relied more extensively on effective test, trace and isolate systems to control the virus.
Service sectors requiring close proximity between consumers and producers or between large groups of consumers, including hospitality services, leisure activities and cross-border travel, were hard hit across all economies, with output declining by 60-80% in several countries by April. Output in many other parts of the economy, including manufacturing and most other market-based services also tumbled, although the extent of the decline was more varied, reflecting the mix of containment measures being imposed and differences in specialisation. Declines in these sectors were also typically larger in Canada, France and the United Kingdom than in Japan or Norway.
In the subsequent recovery output gradually picked up in all sectors, with many containment measures relaxed until recently, although economy-wide activity and manfacturing output still remained below pre-pandemic levels as of September (see first figure). The rebound was particularly marked in wholesale and retail trade, where output returned quickly to the immediate pre‑pandemic level, helped by a rebound in consumer spending.
A weaker recovery occurred in the service sectors most affected initially, pointing to the risk of persistent costs from the pandemic in these sectors. Activity in hospitality, leisure, and transportation, particularly air travel services, continues to be impacted by physical distancing requirements and border closures, with output in September remaining 20-25% below that in February in some countries. The recovery has also been slow in administrative and support services, a category of output that includes travel agencies, where demand is extremely weak.
The special business surveys being undertaken by some national statistics offices and central banks provide additional insight into the effects of the pandemic across sectors, including on workforce arrangements, the extent to which government support schemes are being used, investment plans, and corporate finances. Even prior to the tighter containment measures implemented in the past two months in most European economies, survey information was already highlighting the pressures that firms in the hardest hit sectors were facing.
In Belgium, around one-fifth of responding firms indicated that they could not meet their financial liabilities for more than three months without receiving additional equity or credit (see second figure, Panel A). An additional sizeable share of firms indicated that financial liabilities could only be met for between three and six months. Such financial pressures were most evident in the arts and recreation (leisure) sector, and the accommodation and food services (hospitality) sector, with around 40% and 30% of firms respectively indicating that financial liabilities could not be met for more than three months.
In the United Kingdom, around one-fifth of responding firms reported that their operating costs were currently exceeding turnover, with the excess being over 50% in half of these cases (see second figure, Panel B). A further one-fifth indicated that operating costs were equal to turnover. Financial fragilities again appeared to be strongest in the hardest hit service sectors.
These findings highlight the message in the December OECD Economic Outlook that flexible and state-contingent government support remains necessary to help sustain viable firms and lower the risks of significant long-lasting costs from the pandemic.
The increase in bank deposits during the COVID-19 crisis: Possible drivers and implications
By Ane Kathrine Christensen, Alessandro Maravalle and Łukasz Rawdanowicz, OECD Economics Department
Since the end of 2019, bank deposits of non-financial corporations (NFCs) have increased rapidly in Japan, the United States and many European countries, far above the average growth rates over the same period in the past five years (figure below, Panel A). In contrast, in the global financial crisis, corporate deposits declined amid the credit crunch and, in some cases, a delayed policy response. Deposits of households have also increased but to a smaller extent; though still, in many countries, at a faster rate than in the previous years or at the beginning of the global financial crisis (figure below, Panel B). This blog, based on the recently released OECD Economic Outlook, reviews possible reasons for, and the implications of, the increase in bank deposits.
Possible explanations behind the unprecedented increase in bank deposits
Several factors could explain the observed surge in deposits:
Containment measures made some household purchases impossible (Boxes 1.1 and 1.2 in OECD, 2020) at a time when incomes were maintained by government support, thus increasing saving and bank deposits. This effect should be temporary and dissipate as containment measures are lifted gradually and pent-up demand is satisfied. Indeed, so far, growth in deposits was concentrated in the March May period, when strict lockdown was in force in many countries. In the following months, until the recent reintroduction of containment measures, the rate of growth in deposits of both households and NFCs slowed in most countries, though it remained above the average rate over the same period in the past five years.
Containment measures are likely to have particularly affected consumption of some high ticket services by high-income households, stimulating aggregate saving. High-income households tend to spend a higher share of their income on services that are heavily affected by containment measures, such as international travel, restaurants and cultural events. As the restrictions are likely to persist for some time, so does this motive for saving.
High uncertainty about the pandemic and future economic prospects has strengthened motives for precautionary saving, discouraging investment and purchases of durable goods. For example, Mody et al. (2012) show that the change in the unemployment rate – a proxy for variation in economic uncertainty – boosts precautionary savings. These effects are likely to be more persistent.
Amid disruptions to revenues, NFCs’ preferences for holding cash have increased with the aim of raising their buffers and avoiding liquidity shortfalls. Cash hoarding has been facilitated by drawing on loan facilities (e.g. revolving credit lines), issuance of corporate bonds by large firms (Goel and Serena, 2020), and by government sponsored loan programmes. In November, the size of the resources made available to businesses through government-sponsored loan programmes (loans and guarantees) was above 10% of 2019 GDP in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom. NFCs could have also reduced riskier financial investments (e.g. in money market funds).
Crisis-related tax deferral measures have helped households and NFCs to increase liquidity but may also have encouraged them to set aside money to meet postponed tax obligations. Tax deferrals are officially estimated to be high in some countries, exceeding, for example, 13% of GDP in Italy (including the effect of the moratorium on payments to private companies) and close to 5% of GDP in Japan.
A reversal in any of the above factors may result in additional investment and consumption, boosting aggregate demand and accelerating the economic recovery. Back of the envelope calculations show that “excess” deposits are large relative to pre-crisis business investment, potentially indicating a sizeable future impact on investment (figure below, Panel C). For households, “excess” deposits are relatively small relative to private consumption (figure below, Panel C), but both household deposits and consumption are much larger relative to GDP (figure below, Panels E and F), potentially implying a bigger aggregate impact.
However, there are several reasons why these excess savings may not boost aggregate private demand beyond negative confidence effects. For example, the distribution of deposits may be skewed. If the increase in NFCs’ deposits has been driven by a few large firms that benefitted from the crisis, particularly in the technology sector, excess deposits are unlikely to stimulate future economy-wide investment. Similarly, if the increase in household deposits has been mostly driven by high income households with a relative low marginal propensity to consume, then a reduction in uncertainty and containment measures would not necessarily lead to a broad-based strengthening of consumption. Moreover, firms could use excess deposits to settle payments due to other companies, creditors or tax authorities.
Goel, T. and J.M. Serena (2020), “Bonds and syndicated loans during the Covid-19 crisis: Decoupled again?”, BIS Bulletin, No. 29. https://www.bis.org/publ/bisbull29.pdf Mody, A., F. Ohnsorge and D. Sandri (2012), “Precautionary Savings in the Great Recession”, IMF Working Papers, No. 42, International Monetary Fund. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2012/wp1242.pdf OECD (2020), “General Assessment of the Macroeconomic Situation”, Chapter 1 of OECD Economic Outlook, Volume 2020, Issue 2, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Zum ersten Mal seit Beginn der Pandemie können wir wieder hoffnungsvoll in die Zukunft blicken.Durch die Fortschritte bei der Impfstoffentwicklung und der Behandlung von COVID-19 haben sich die Zukunftsaussichten verbessert und die Unsicherheit ist gesunken. Die beispiellosen Maßnahmen der Regierungen und Zentralbanken haben in vielen Sektoren eine rasche Erholung der globalen Wirtschaftstätigkeit bewirkt. In einigen Dienstleistungsbranchen wird die Aktivität jedoch weiter durch die Kontaktbeschränkungen beeinträchtigt. Der Beschäftigungsrückgang hat sich z. T. wieder umgekehrt, viele Menschen sind aber immer noch von Unterbeschäftigung betroffen. Die meisten Unternehmen haben überlebt, häufig sind sie jedoch finanziell angeschlagen. Ohne die massiven Stützungsmaßnahmen wären die Auswirkungen auf die wirtschaftliche und soziale Lage katastrophal gewesen. So aber konnte das Schlimmste verhindert werden: Der Großteil der bestehenden wirtschaftlichen Strukturen blieb erhalten und konnte schnell wieder hochgefahren werden. Viele gefährdete Menschen, Unternehmen und Länder befinden sich jedoch nach wie vor in einer prekären Lage.
Die Aussichten sind freundlicher, es gibt aber noch gewaltige Herausforderungen zu bewältigen.Mittlerweile sind weltweit 1½ Millionen Menschen an oder mit COVID-19 gestorben. In vielen Ländern wütet bereits die nächste Welle der Pandemie, während in anderen Ländern die erste Welle noch nicht unter Kontrolle gebracht wurde. Es steht zu hoffen, dass noch im Jahresverlauf 2021 wirksame Impfungen allgemein verfügbar werden oder ein Durchbruch bei der Behandlung von COVID-19 erreicht wird. In der Zwischenzeit wird die Pandemie die Wirtschaft weiter belasten. Auch in den nächsten Quartalen wird die Wirtschaftstätigkeit noch durch Kontaktbeschränkungen und teilweise geschlossene Grenzen beeinträchtigt werden. Einige Sektoren werden zu alter Stärke zurückfinden, während in anderen Stillstand herrscht. In Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländern, für die der Tourismus eine wichtige Einnahmequelle ist, wird sich die Lage weiter verschlechtern. Diese Länder werden mehr Unterstützung durch die Weltgemeinschaft benötigen. Die Konjunktur muss weiter massiv gestützt werden, gerade weil ein Ende der Gesundheitskrise nun absehbar ist.
Die Weltwirtschaft wird in den nächsten zwei Jahren an Dynamik gewinnen. Ende 2021 dürfte die globale Wirtschaftsleistung wieder das Niveau von vor der Pandemie erreicht haben.Nach einem drastischen Einbruch in diesem Jahr wird das globale BIP den Projektionen zufolge 2021 um 4¼ % und 2022 um weitere 3¾ % wachsen. Durch Fortschritte in der Forschung und Impfstoffentwicklung, effektivere Kontaktnachverfolgung und Isolierung sowie Verhaltensänderungen im Privat- und Geschäftsleben lässt sich das Infektionsgeschehen besser eindämmen. Dadurch können die Mobilitätsbeschränkungen allmählich gelockert werden. Dabei spielen die seit Beginn der Pandemie ergriffenen Maßnahmen zur Stützung von Arbeitsplätzen und Unternehmen eine wichtige Rolle. Sie tragen entscheidend dazu bei, dass sich die Konjunktur nach der Aufhebung der Beschränkungen rasch erholen kann. Dies dürfte zusammen mit der verringerten Unsicherheit bewirken, dass die erhöhten Ersparnisse für Konsumausgaben und Investitionen genutzt werden. Die außerordentliche fiskalische Entlastung, für die 2020 gesorgt wurde und die weiterhin erforderlich ist, wird sich am Ende auszahlen. Mit dem schrittweisen Wiederhochfahren von immer mehr wirtschaftlichen Aktivitäten wird sich die Erholung verstärken und beschleunigen. Dadurch werden die krisenbedingten Einkommensverluste insgesamt begrenzt.
Die Erholung dürfte von Land zu Land unterschiedlich verlaufen. Die Weltwirtschaft könnte sich dadurch dauerhaft verändern. Die Länder und Regionen, die über effektive Test-, Kontaktnachverfolgungs- und Isolierungsstrategien verfügen und in denen Impfungen rasch umgesetzt werden können, dürften vergleichsweise gut abschneiden. Sie werden aber dennoch unter der weltweiten Nachfrageschwäche leiden. In China, wo die Erholung früher begann, wird ein kräftiges Wachstum erwartet. 2021 dürfte mehr als ein Drittel des Weltwirtschaftswachstums auf China entfallen. Die OECD-Volkswirtschaften werden ebenfalls einen Aufschwung verzeichnen. Mit einem Wachstum von 3,3 % im Jahr 2021 werden sie sich zunächst jedoch nur teilweise von der gravierenden Rezession des Jahres 2020 erholen. Europa und Nordamerika werden weiterhin weniger zum weltweiten Wachstum beitragen, als es ihrem Anteil an der Weltwirtschaft entsprechen würde.
Der Ausblick bleibt extrem unsicher und ist sowohl mit Aufwärts- als auch mit Abwärtsrisiken behaftet. Eine günstigere Entwicklung wäre möglich, wenn die Impfstoffe dank effizienter Impfkampagnen und einer besseren länderübergreifenden Zusammenarbeit schneller weltweit eingesetzt werden könnten. Wie sich am aktuellen Wiederaufflammen der Pandemie in vielen Ländern zeigt, kann es aber auch sein, dass die Regierungen die Wirtschaftstätigkeit erneut einschränken müssen, insbesondere wenn die Verteilung wirksamer Impfstoffe nicht zügig vorankommt. Außerdem würde das Vertrauen leiden, wenn die in die Impfstoffe gesetzten Hoffnungen aufgrund von Verteilungsproblemen oder Nebenwirkungen enttäuscht würden. Die wirtschaftlichen Folgen könnten gravierend sein und über die Schwächung staatlicher und privatwirtschaftlicher Schuldner auch das Risiko von Finanzmarktturbulenzen mit globalen Ausstrahlungseffekten erhöhen.
Trotz der immensen geld- und fiskalpolitischen Stützungsmaßnahmen führt die Pandemie selbst im günstigsten Szenario weltweit zu einer Verschlechterung der sozioökonomischen Situation. In vielen Ländern wird die Wirtschaftsleistung auch 2022 noch rd. 5 % unter den Vorkrisenerwartungen liegen. Dies lässt erhebliche dauerhafte Schäden durch die Pandemie befürchten. Dabei werden besonders gefährdete Gruppen weiterhin überproportional betroffen sein. Kleinere Unternehmen und Gründerinnen sind stärker von Insolvenzen bedroht. Viele Geringverdienende haben ihre Stelle verloren und können nun bestenfalls auf Arbeitslosengeld hoffen. Sie haben kaum Aussichten, schnell wieder Arbeit zu finden. Für Bedürftige, die generell weniger gut sozial abgesichert sind, hat sich die Lage weiter verschlechtert. Sozial benachteiligten Kindern und Jugendlichen fiel es häufig schwer, an Fernunterricht teilzunehmen, und geringer qualifizierte Arbeitskräfte konnten oft nicht von zu Hause aus arbeiten. Dies könnte negative Langzeitfolgen haben.
Die Regierungen werden weiter aktiv Unterstützung leisten müssen. Die Maßnahmen müssen jedoch gezielter auf die am stärksten Betroffenen ausgerichtet werden. Die Aussicht auf bald verfügbare Impfstoffe bedeutet nicht, dass die Unterstützung nun zurückgefahren werden sollte. Dies wäre ebenso verfrüht, wie es damals die Konsolidierung nach der globalen Finanzkrise war. Gesundheits- und Wirtschaftspolitik müssen Hand in Hand gehen. Die gesundheitspolitischen Maßnahmen müssen verstärkt werden, um die Auswirkungen neuer Infektionsausbrüche und die damit verbundenen Einschränkungen zu begrenzen. Zugleich muss die fiskalische Unterstützung fortgesetzt werden, um den Erhalt betroffener Sektoren, Unternehmen und Arbeitsplätze zu sichern. Die letzten neun Monate haben gezeigt, dass diese Maßnahmen angemessen waren, was auch weiter der Fall sein wird. Die Geld- und Fiskalpolitik muss ihren Kurs mit Nachdruck weiterverfolgen, zumindest solange die Gesundheitskrise eigentlich tragfähige wirtschaftliche Aktivitäten und Arbeitsplätze bedroht.
Verstärktes staatliches Handeln muss kein Grund zur Besorgnis sein, wenn es dazu dient, ein kräftigeres und gerechteres Wachstum zu fördern. Durch die massiven fiskalischen Stützungsmaßnahmen steigt die Staatsverschuldung auf ein Rekordniveau. Zugleich sind aber die Kosten der Verschuldung niedriger als je zuvor. Auffallend ist, dass zwischen dem Umfang der fiskalischen Maßnahmen und der daraus resultierenden Wirtschaftsentwicklung kein klarer Zusammenhang zu erkennen ist. Dies lässt den Schluss zu, dass nicht alle Maßnahmen zweckmäßig sind. Die beispiellose geld- und fiskalpolitische Unterstützung muss sich tatsächlich auszahlen. Sie muss ein kräftigeres und besseres Wirtschaftswachstum hervorbringen. Mindestens drei Prioritäten sollten dabei im Vordergrund stehen. Erstens: Investitionen in grundlegende Güter und Dienstleistungen, z. B. in das Bildungs- und Gesundheitswesen sowie die physische und digitale Infrastruktur. Zweitens: entschlossenes Handeln, um den Anstieg der Armut und der Einkommensungleichheit dauerhaft umzukehren. Drittens: internationale Zusammenarbeit, da globale Krisen nicht durch einzelstaatliches und selbstbezogenes Handeln überwunden werden können.
Die Umschichtung öffentlicher Ausgaben auf grundlegende Güter und Dienstleistungen würde signalisieren, dass die Regierungen aus der Krise gelernt haben. Um künftig besser gegen Krisen gewappnet zu sein, sollten mehr öffentliche und private Investitionen in Gesundheit, Bildung und Infrastruktur mobilisiert werden. Bei der Steigerung der Krisenfestigkeit des Gesundheitswesens geht es nicht nur um die Verteilung von Impfstoffen oder um die Zahl der Intensivbetten, sondern auch um Prävention und eine bezahlbare Gesundheitsversorgung für alle. Entscheidend sind zudem Investitionen in Kompetenzen, um bessere Bildungs- und Arbeitsmarktergebnisse zu erzielen und dadurch letztlich das Wachstumspotenzial und das gesellschaftliche Wohlergehen dauerhaft zu steigern. Dies umfasst mehr und gezielter eingesetzte Ressourcen in der frühkindlichen Bildung, besser bezahlte und ausgebildete Lehrkräfte sowie eine bessere Weiterbildungsförderung, insbesondere für gefährdete Gruppen, wie etwa Eltern in schwierigen Lebensumständen. Krisen haben in der Vergangenheit oft dazu geführt, dass weniger investiert wurde und dauerhafte Infrastrukturdefizite entstanden, u. a. bei der Digitalisierung und der Dekarbonisierung der Energieversorgung. Das muss sich ändern.
Besonders gefährdete Gruppen, vor allem Kinder, Jugendliche und Geringqualifizierte, die nur unzureichend vor der Krise geschützt wurden, müssen stärker unterstützt werden. In vielen Ländern lassen sich Lehren aus der Krise ziehen, um die Bildungssysteme zu verbessern. Die Staaten müssen mit entsprechenden Investitionen dafür sorgen, dass alle Haushalte, Lehrkräfte und Schülerinnen – insbesondere jene in benachteiligten Verhältnissen – über einen guten Breitbandzugang verfügen und für den digitalen Unterricht ausgestattet sind. Die Krise hat gezeigt, wie dringend die Digitalkompetenzen verbessert werden müssen. Sie hat auch Lücken in den sozialen Sicherungssystemen offenbart. Die Fiskalpolitik sollte gezielter gefährdete Gruppen unterstützen, die durch das Raster der üblichen Sozialversicherungssysteme fallen und keinen Anspruch auf die bislang verfügbaren zusätzlichen Hilfen haben. Dies würde sowohl den Betroffenen als auch der Gesellschaft als Ganzes zugutekommen.
Die internationale Zusammenarbeit hat in den letzten Jahren abgenommen. Dabei wäre sie gerade jetzt wichtiger als je zuvor. Die sogenannte „globale“ Finanzkrise war vor allem eine Krise einiger fortgeschrittener Volkswirtschaften. Sie löste aber eine beispiellose gemeinsame Reaktion aus. Die Pandemie ist die erste wirklich globale Krise seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Sie hat zu außerordentlichen nationalen Krisenmaßnahmen, aber auch Grenzschließungen und wenig Zusammenarbeit geführt. Protektionismus und Grenzschließungen sind keine Lösung. Sie verhindern die Verteilung wesentlicher Güter weltweit und bestrafen Volkswirtschaften, die nur durch die Teilnahme an globalen Wertschöpfungsketten zu anderen aufschließen können. Diese Entwicklung muss wieder umgekehrt werden. Nötig ist eine breite, schnelle und großzügige Produktion und Verteilung wirksamer Medikamente und Impfstoffe, an der alle Länder teilhaben können. Multilaterale Foren müssen sich stärker für Schuldentransparenz sowie bei Bedarf für ein Schuldenmoratorium einsetzen. Zugleich müssen die Aufsichtsbehörden die Unternehmensverschuldung genau überwachen. Es gilt zu verhindern, dass die Gesundheits- und Wirtschaftskrise auch noch eine Finanzkrise auslöst.
Hoffentlich können wir auf die Frage, wie die Welt nach Corona aussieht, einmal antworten: „Fast so wie vorher, bloß ein wenig besser.“