SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 1 August 2021, Sunday |

Delta COVID-19 variant haunts outlook for global economic growth

With the second half of 2021 now under way, the gathering in Venice provides a key moment for finance ministers and central bank governors to take stock of the global rebound, probably resulting in a more assured show of confidence than they offered in April. Back then, they observed only an “uneven” and “fragile” recovery taking hold.

For all the progress that vaccines have brought, the worry of relapses in the pandemic remains ever-present. On Friday, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde lamented the uncertainty posed by the more-transmissible so-called delta variant, a threat the European Commission may acknowledge in quarterly forecasts due this week.

Meanwhile in the US, Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell has warned that new strains remain a risk to the economy. Health officials there reckon the delta variant may eclipse other mutations in the US within weeks.

Such concerns are lingering elsewhere in the G-20. In Australia, half of the population went into lockdown last week, while coronavirus cases in South Korea reached a six-month high — and India reached a grim tally of 400,000 deaths.

If officials crave a sign of hope amid such setbacks, the Venice event offers them comfort in the symbolism of improvement showcased by the meeting itself. Ministers will actually convene in person for the first time since February last year. Ever since then, the onset of the pandemic had forced all such gatherings to resort to video.

Elsewhere in the world economy, central bankers in Israel, Poland and Australia set rates and ECB and Fed publish minutes of their most recent monetary policy meetings.