Securing a durable recovery: Covid-19 and beyond

Press release  | 
29 June 2021
  • The strong policy response to Covid-19 delivered a faster than expected economic rebound, but the uneven recovery creates daunting challenges for policymakers.
  • In the near term, flexible policy support is key to nursing the recovery. In the longer term, monetary and fiscal policies will need to re-establish safety margins, a complicated task given the unprecedented initial conditions and inadequate structural reforms.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated income and wealth inequality. Monetary policy cannot influence its rising long-term trend, but can mitigate it by tackling macroeconomic instability in line with its mandate.

Swift and forceful action from central banks and governments has limited the economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic, and as policymakers look ahead to the next phase of the recovery they must prepare for different but no less formidable challenges, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said in its Annual Economic Report 2021

In its flagship economic publication, the BIS describes the global recovery so far as incomplete and uneven, with some countries and sectors bouncing back quickly and others lagging. The uneven recovery could generate headwinds for emerging market economies (EMEs) in particular, due to tighter financial conditions as advanced economies transition more quickly.

In the coming year, issues such as corporate insolvencies and capital and labour reallocation will come to the fore. The report presents a central scenario for the recovery with a temporary increase in inflation, along with two more challenging scenarios. In one, large fiscal stimulus and a drawdown of accumulated savings result in stronger growth but also higher inflation and a substantial tightening in global financial conditions. In the other, growth disappoints as the virus proves harder to control. 

The whole world entered this crisis suddenly and as one, but the exit is proving to be slower and staggered. While the recovery has been faster and stronger than anyone would have imagined a year ago, we are not out of the woods yet. Policymakers need to carefully manage the risks arising from this economic and policy divergence and set a solid foundation for long-term growth.

Agustín Carstens, General Manager

Given the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, monetary and fiscal policies will need to provide support while remaining flexible and retaining policy headroom. In addition, they must facilitate the reallocation of resources in the light of pandemic-induced shifts in demand.

As we exit the pandemic, we see higher public debt, lower interest rates and larger central bank balance sheets. Normalising monetary and fiscal policy over the longer term will provide a necessary safety margin to cope with unexpected events such as the pandemic or future recessions. And securing a durable recovery will require addressing the more lasting consequences of the pandemic.

Agustín Carstens, General Manager

The unprecedented starting point, in terms of exceptionally low interest rates and exceptionally high debt levels, makes this a challenging task. Raising potential growth is essential, and can only be done through forceful and continued structural reforms.

The report also analyses: 

In addition, the report addresses rising income and wealth inequality, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It analyses the structural causes of inequality, including globalisation and technology, and monetary policy's role in mitigating them.

Long-term trends in inequality result from structural forces that are beyond the reach of monetary policy. But that doesn't mean monetary policy has no role to play. High inflation and economic and financial instability amplify inequality, and central bank mandates are all about fighting such instability.

Claudio Borio, Head of the Monetary and Economic Department

The changing nature of the business cycle and the greater frequency of financial recessions complicates this task, the report says. So it is more important than ever that fiscal, prudential and structural policies play a complementary role in stabilising the economy.

Note for editors:

A special chapter on central bank digital currencies, "CBDCs: an opportunity for the monetary system", was released on 23 June.

The Annual Report of the BIS is also published today and highlights the significant progress made on its Innovation BIS 2025 strategy and how the Bank has responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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