IMF's Georgieva says coronavirus to shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth

By Stephen Kalin and Andrea Shalal
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference in Rabat

By Stephen Kalin and Andrea Shalal

RIYADH (Reuters) - The fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak will likely lower China's economic growth this year to 5.6%, down 0.4 percentage points from its January outlook, and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth, the IMF said on Saturday.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva presented the outlook to central bankers and finance ministers from the world's 20 largest economies gathered in Riyadh where the outbreak was a major topic of discussion, but said the IMF continued to look at more dire scenarios.

China, which did not send senior officials to the G20 meeting because of the crisis over the virus, reported a sharp fall in new deaths and cases on Saturday. But world health officials warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak as new infections continued to rise in other countries.

"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," 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 has said it could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic.

The latest draft communique from the G20 meeting gives less prominence to the outbreak of coronavirus as a growth risk, saying only that the G20 would "... enhance global risk monitoring, including the recent outbreak of COVID-19," the medical acronym for the coronavirus.

Georgieva said the Chinese authorities were working to mitigate the negative impact on the economy 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 said, referring to the World Health Organization.

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 (IIF) said on Friday.

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

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

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Giles Elgood and James Drummond)