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Economy likely to rebound next year, but 2020 contraction may lead to permanent income loss: UN.

Date: 24-09-2020
Subject: Economy likely to rebound next year, but 2020 contraction may lead to permanent income loss: UN
NEW DELHI: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Tuesday said it expects a rebound in the Indian economy in 2021 but the contraction registered in 2020 is likely to translate into a permanent income loss. The agency also said that a sustained and coordinated state-led fiscal expansion around the globe is needed, instead of a retreat into austerity.

“Although we expect a rebound in 2021 in line with the growth rates of the Indian economy in recent years, the contraction registered in 2020 is likely to translate into a permanent income loss,” it said in its Trade and Development Report 2020.

As per the report, between 90 million to 120 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty in the developing world, with close to 300 million facing food insecurity- many of these in India. It said the global economy will contract 4.3% this year with South Asia expected to shrink 4.8% in 2020 and recover 3.9% in 2021.

Highlighting that the current measures on debt relief are “completely inadequate”, the organisation proposed an expansion of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by at least $1 trillion if not more. The US and India had rejected IMF proposal for $500 billion more SDRs. It also suggested a Marshall Plan for Health Recovery funded through increased official development assistance commitments, international tax reform and enhanced multilateral financing mechanisms.

It said in many developing countries, the urgent need for increased health spending to tackle the spread of the virus is running up against declining tax revenues, collapse in export earnings and pending debt payments. Even countries without these constraints (like India) are self-imposing austerity even in the midst of the pandemic.

UNCTAD advised an international Public Credit Rating Agency and a Global Debt Authority in the wake of global debt-to-GDP ratio rising 10 percentage points to 331% of GDP in the first few months of the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2020, global debt stocks reached record levels of $258 trillion.

“Among G20 countries, Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa have all implemented austerity in the past years but are now struggling to access reliable sources of finance,” it said.

While it suggested countries to return to public investment, a major source of infrastructure spending in most countries, the Geneva-based organisation also advised them to raise minimum wages, strengthen collective bargaining institutions and increase employers’ social security contributions.

UNCTAD said a “Peace Clause” in the World Trade Organisation and in the free trade agreements (FTA) on pandemic-related government actions would enable countries to quickly adopt and use emergency measures to overcome intellectual property, data, and informational barriers.

An immediate moratorium on investor-state dispute settlement cases by foreign corporations against governments using international treaties, and a permanent restriction on all Covid-19 related claims, would also help, it said.


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