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World Economic Situation and Prospects 2021

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This is the United Nations definitive report on the state of the world economy, providing global and regional economic outlook for 2020 and 2021. A once-in-a-century crisis—a Great Disruption unleashed by a viral pandemic—hit the world economy in 2020. The pandemic spread like a forest fire, reaching every corner of the world, infecting more than 90 million and killing close to 2 million people worldwide. For several months, uncertainties and panic paralysed most economic activities in both developed and developing economies. Trade and tourism came to a grinding halt, while job and output losses exceeded levels seen in any previous crisis. In a matter of months, the number of people living in poverty increased sharply, while income and wealth inequality trended towards new highs. Governments around the world responded rapidly—and boldly—to stem the health and economic contagion of the crisis. Fiscal and monetary stimulus packages were quickly rolled out to save the economy. The crisis responses, however, entailed difficult choices between saving lives and saving livelihoods, between speed of delivery and efficiency, and between short-term costs and long-term impacts. Limited fiscal space and high levels of public debt constrained the ability of many developing countries to roll out sufficiently large stimulus packages. This report was produced by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the five United Nations regional commissions, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, with contributions from the UN World Tourism Organization and other intergovernmental agencies.

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