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Unequal access to vaccines skews global recovery, says IMF chief economist

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LONDON – The global economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic at an uneven pace due to unequal access to vaccines, and the Delta variant threatens countries that lack essential medical supplies, the IMF’s chief economist warned on Wednesday. .

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, many countries are still battling the virus, particularly the increasingly dominant and highly infectious Delta variant. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia are fighting pandemic outbreaks and tightening restrictions.

“Right now, what we are seeing is very uneven access to vaccines, including therapies and diagnostics. So what we are seeing is a divergent recovery, ”said International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath during a webinar at the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

“The number one question is how do we get to a point where we have good population coverage in terms of vaccination rates around the world.”

Referring to the surges in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, Gopinath said that there are countries that will not have the tests, personal protective equipment and oxygen necessary to “survive this increase.”

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After the steepest annual recession of the postwar era, the IMF expects global growth to pick up strongly this year. In April, it raised its growth estimates for the world economy to 6% this year, while forecasting smaller improvements in emerging economies than its developed peers.

The crisis had been “exceptionally regressive” on issues ranging from food security to poverty to debt, said World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart.

Meanwhile, as an uneven global recovery takes shape, many countries are being subjected to sharp increases in inflationary pressures, Reinhart said.

Investors have been on the alert for signs of inflation, in the United States in particular, with concerns raised about the pace of elimination of political support from the Federal Reserve and other major central banks.

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The United States was seeing transitory pressures around inflation linked to supply and demand mismatches manifested in late deliveries, with upside risks, Gopinath said.

“Many of these sources (of inflation) are transitive in nature; there is reason to believe that by next year these numbers will return to more normal levels, “he said. “Right now, my opinion is that we are in a state where we see transitory movements in inflation and that they are going to go down.”

“Of course, there are always upside risks” (Report by Tom Arnold and Elizabeth Howcroft; edited by Karin Strohecker and Jonathan Oatis)

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