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VIRUS OUTBREAK

G-20 calls for coordinated virus response; IMF trims forecasts

IMF predicts outbreak will lower China's growth this year to 5.6%, shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth

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IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva is also looking at scenarios where the outbreak continues for longer and more globally.

Riyadh 

THE world's top economies called for a coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted would lower China's growth this year to 5.6 per cent and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva presented the outlook to central bankers and finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G-20) countries on Saturday, but said the IMF continued to look at more dire scenarios.

The China outlook is 0.4 percentage points lower than it was last month.

China reported a sharp fall in new deaths and cases on Saturday, but the World Health Organization (WHO) warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak.

It added that it was concerned about the number of new infections in other countries with no clear link to China such as travel history or contact with a confirmed case.

"In our current baseline scenario, announced policies are implemented and China's economy would return to normal in the second quarter. As a result, the impact on the world economy would be relatively minor and short-lived," Ms Georgieva said.

"But we are also looking at more dire scenarios where the spread of the virus continues for longer and more globally, and the growth consequences are more protracted."

China, which was represented at the G-20 meeting by its ambassador to Saudi Arabia as senior officials stayed away due to the growing crisis over the virus, has said it could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic.

Japan's finance minister said almost all the G-20 countries mentioned the risk posed by the coronavirus during the gathering in Riyadh and that he had warned of a serious impact on the global economy if it spreads further.

"But it's hard to grasp what is happening as there's relatively little information. I can say today's participants called for the need to coordinate (in responding to the virus impact)," Mr Taro Aso told reporters.

The latest draft communique gives less prominence than an earlier version to the outbreak as a growth risk, saying only that the G-20 would "... enhance global risk monitoring, including the recent outbreak of Covid-19", the medical acronym for the coronavirus. A source familiar with the discussions said that the G-20 countries had not made plans for any separate committee or meetings to coordinate a response.

Ms Georgieva said the Chinese authorities were working to mitigate the negative economic impact with crisis measures, liquidity provision, fiscal measures and financial support.

"While the impact of the epidemic continues to unfold, the WHO's assessment is that with strong and coordinated measures, the spread of the virus in China and globally can yet be contained and the human tragedy arrested," she pointed out.

The coronavirus outbreak may curb demand for oil in China, which has reported more than 2,000 deaths, and other Asian countries, further depressing oil prices, industry body the Institute of International Finance has said.

Ms Georgieva said global cooperation was essential to containing the virus and its economic impact, particularly if the outbreak turned out to be more persistent and widespread.

She added that it was imperative to recognise the potential risk for fragile states and countries with weak health care systems, adding that the IMF was ready to provide grants for debt relief to its poorest and most vulnerable members. REUTERS

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