How China Compares Internationally in New GDP Figures

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May 31, 2020 — The World Bank on May 19, as it does every six years, released the results of the most recent International Comparison Program (ICP), which measures price levels and GDPs across 176 countries.  The new results are striking.  It is surprising that they have received almost no attention so far, perhaps overshadowed by all things coronavirus.

For the first time, the ICP shows China’s total real income as slightly larger than the US.  It reports that China’s GDP was $19,617 billion in 2017, in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, while the United States’ GDP stood at $19,519 billion. read more

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Risk of Rapid Re-opening

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May 11, 2020 — This interview by Associated Press is the basis of quotes in a story today: “Risk of reopening US economy too fast: A W-shaped recovery.

  1. AP: To what extent is the push to reopen the economy making a W-shaped recovery more likely?

JF: I believe that the push to reopen the economy is making a W-shaped recovery very much more likely.

  1. AP: What should we be doing to produce the best economic outcome?

JF: Widespread reopening should wait for certain conditions to be met.  The conditions include:

  • a sustained decline in mortality rates (not just the attainment of a peak);
  • the easy availability of frequent testing (in reality, not just as a White House claim);
  • and perhaps ultimately the discovery and testing of a vaccine and/or treatment (which will take time).
  1. AP: At this point what type of recovery do you see as most likely?

JF: Unfortunately, I would guess that a W-shaped pattern is the most likely, as premature withdrawal of government measures leads to relapses in health of the population and health of the economy. read more

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What is different about the coronavirus recession?

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Interview by El Pais, Madrid, May 9. 2020

  1. In the GFC of 2008/2009 the world fell into recession for a while (one year), but the emerging world almost didn’t suffer: they kept growing, mostly thanks to commodity prices. Now, the story looks pretty different: even emerging countries will experience negative growth in 2020… It seems to be a truly global crisis. Should this worry us more?

JF:  Almost everything about the Coronavirus Recession of 2020 should worry us more than the GFC.  Yes, Emerging Market countries will experience negative growth in 2020, and it will probably be worse than the IMF’s recent forecast of -1.0%.   They have been hit by a loss of export markets (especially in the case of the oil exporters), a loss of emigrants’ remittances, and a loss of capital inflows, not to mention the direct effects of Covid-19 on the health of their populations (which so far looks particularly bad in Latin America, but not as bad in Africa).  If the 2010 rise in commodity prices was an important part of the economic recovery in developing countries, the mechanism was resurging demand from China, which bounced back quickly at that time.  This is less likely to work this time.  Also, many EM countries entered the 2008 GFC with newly strengthened balance sheets (higher foreign exchange reserves and lower dollar-denominated debt) and in some cases with stronger budgets.   That helped them weather the GFC.   But it is less true this time.   Backsliding in areas such as corporate borrowing in dollars has left EMs more vulnerable. read more

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