Counting the Cost

How the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the global economy

Will the economic impact of the coronavirus be on par with the 2008 financial crisis? Plus, Argentina and death default.

It was a bruising year for China. A trade war with the United States left its economy expanding at the slowest pace in 30 years.

And economists estimate 4 million jobs may have been lost in 2019. This year is already being defined by the outbreak of the coronavirus which has killed thousands and has infected thousands more, putting the brakes on China’s economy.

Economists polled by Reuters expect China’s growth rate to slump to 4.5 percent in the first quarter of this year from 6 percent in the previous quarter. That would be the slowest pace since the financial crisis.

With much of the country in lockdown, the virus could affect up to 42 percent of China’s economy, according to Standard Chartered.

Companies may struggle to make payments on loans leading to a rise in what is called non-performing loans of $1.1 trillion, according to Standard and Poor’s. Chinese airlines have been forced to ground planes and are expected to lose $12.8bn in revenue.

Globally, the airline industry is set to lose $29bn, according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA). And the effect of COVID-19 is being felt regionally.

“Well, as you know, from 15 to 20 years ago China was already dubbed as ‘the factory of the world’ so then what we have seen now is that the supply chain sourcing has been interrupted,” Reuben Mondejar, professor for Asian Initiatives at the IESE Business School, University of Navarra, tells Al Jazeera.

Argentina needs help to avoid death default, again

Argentina’s economy is expected to contract for the third consecutive year. Inflation is running at more than 50 percent and the country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid a default on its debt.

Since the late 1950s, the IMF has provided loans and bailouts to Argentina more than 20 times. But this time it has finally admitted what everyone else was saying – that Argentina’s debt is “unsustainable”.

The country has debts of more than $320bn. The IMF now says they will have to take losses on their holdings. And there seems to be a determination in Buenos Aires that they will not accept any new austerity measures.

In fact, the new President Alberto Fernandez has instead frozen prices and increased salaries.

Richard Segal, a senior analyst with Manulife Asset Management, explains that the situation in Argentina has been stressed for many years.

“The IMF is acknowledging what we have understood for a long time, meaning that the public debt is unsustainable and it needs to be written down quite substantially,” Segal notes.