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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The world is in desperate need of cooperation and unity to pull out of the coronavirus pandemic and begin what the IMF has termed the "long, difficult ascent" right as its leaders are increasingly focused on nationalism and decoupling.

Driving the news: The IMF raised its 2020 global growth outlook, largely because of improved expectations for China, but cut its longer-term forecast, citing slower growth. Policymakers expressed worries about a number of "setbacks" that could hobble its diminished forecast with potentially significant "scarring" in the long term.

  • "The scarring is expected to compound forces that dragged productivity growth lower across many economies in the years leading up to the pandemic — relatively slow investment growth weighing on physical capital accumulation, more modest improvements in human capital, and slower efficiency gains in combining technology with factors of production," IMF leaders said in the latest World Economic Outlook.
  • "The uncertainty surrounding the baseline projection is unusually large."

What we're hearing: "I worry most about withdrawing support to workers and firms prematurely because it could cause a wave of bankruptcies and massive increase in unemployment," IMF head Kristalina Georgieva said during a media briefing Wednesday.

  • "We are advising all governments, 'Do as much as you can, don’t cut financial lifelines too early.'"

By the numbers: Already, the World Bank has warned the pandemic will push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021.

The big picture: Without global leadership on the issue from either of the world's two largest economies, the IMF and World Bank have attempted to fill the void but are already far overextended for a crisis that is just beginning in much of the developing world.

  • Since March, the IMF has provided "10 times" as much economic support to the world's developing countries as it does in a normal year, Georgieva said.
  • The Fund is calling for multilateral efforts to reduce the debt held by developing countries, an effort that has so far fallen on mostly deaf ears in China and at asset management firms in the U.S. and Europe.

The bottom line: For many countries, the immediate shock and bounce that has followed over the past few months has been the light work.

  • Now comes "the really hard part of the recovery," Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings, said during a presentation for the Institute of International Finance's annual meeting Tuesday.
  • "We’ve got another 18 months ahead, at least."

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Dec 24, 2020 - Health

2020 was bad — but not nearly the worst

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

2020 will go down in infamy for all the obvious reasons, but history shows it doesn't actually rank among humanity's worst years.

Why it matters: The past is a foreign country, and that goes doubly so the deeper we dig. Understanding just how far we've come from the years when life was nasty, brutal and short can help us put the pain of 2020 in perspective, and appreciate the progress we need to defend.

Updated 11 mins ago - World

Russia announces end to massive troop buildup near Ukraine

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) with President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia's defense minister said Thursday that massive military exercises near the border with Ukraine had been completed, and that he had ordered troops to return to their permanent bases by May 1, according to state media.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of troops and heavy military equipment had been moved to the border of eastern Ukraine and the annexed territory of Crimea over the last month, sparking fears of a potential Russian invasion.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
30 mins ago - Economy & Business

Private equity's other tax fight

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Private equity is carefully watching the D.C. debate on corporate taxes, in which Senate Democrats seem to be settling on a 25% rate.

Zoom in: Marginal rates obviously matter, but for PE it's just an appetizer before the weedier work begins on issues like corporate interest deductibility.