COVID-19: Prioritize health care spending – IMF to govts

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said while the pandemic continues, governments’ policies should first focus on escaping the crisis, prioritizing health care spending, providing well-targeted fiscal support, and maintaining accommodative monetary policy while monitoring financial stability risks. The Bretton Woods institution said in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) report that the factors shaping the appropriate stance of policy vary by country, especially progress toward normalization. Hence, countries will need to tailor their policy responses to the stage of the pandemic, strength of the recovery, and structural characteristics of the economy. Once vaccination becomes widespread and spare capacity in health care systems is generally restored to pre-COVID-19 levels, restrictions can begin to be lifted. “While the pandemic continues, policies should first focus on escaping the crisis, prioritizing health care spending, providing well-targeted fiscal support, and maintaining accommodative monetary policy while monitoring financial stability risks. “Then, as the recovery progresses, policymakers will need to limit long-term economic scarring with an eye toward boosting productive capacity (for example, public investment) and increasing incentives for an efficient allocation of productive resources. “It is a delicate balance, especially given the prevailing uncertainty. Therefore, when support is eventually scaled back, it should be done in ways that avoid sudden cliffs (for instance, gradually reducing the government’s share of wages covered under furlough and short-time work programs while increasing hiring subsidies to enable reallocation as needed). “All the while, long-term challenges—boosting productivity, improving policy frameworks, and addressing climate change—cannot be ignored. Differential recovery speeds across countries may give rise to divergent policy stances, particularly if advanced economies benefit sooner than others from wide vaccine coverage. “Clear forward guidance and communication from advanced economy central banks is particularly crucial, and not just for calibrating the appropriate domestic monetary accommodation. “It also vitally bears on external financial conditions in emerging markets and the impact that divergent policy stances have on capital flows.” By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana

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