Originally published in The Guardian on October 13, 2022

This week the IMF released its latest World Economic Outlook. And the outlook is dire. Economic growth around the world was downgraded with recession-like conditions being predicted for many advanced economies including the USA, UK and much of the EU.

As policy director, Greg Jericho, notes in his Guardian Australia column, the outlook is not much better for Australia. The IMF is now predicting that in 2023 and 2024 Australia’s GDP will grow less than 2%. Such meagre growth in the past has been consistent with periods of recession.

The report should serve as a stark warning to central banks around the world that their efforts to limit inflation by sharply raising interest rates is becoming more and more likely to end with a recession and the resultant massive loss of jobs that will follow. Experience from the 1980s and 1990s where similar recessions followed extreme tightening of monetary policy suggests it can take a long time to reverse the damage.

While the Reserve Bank is somewhat constrained because it needs to be mindful of the rate rises in the USA that weaken the value of the Australian dollar, the IMF report should cause them to weigh much more the costs of sharply slowing growth through interest rate rises.

We know that current efforts to limit inflation growth are mostly involving workers taking a real wage hit. Having to endure rising unemployment and a recession after 2 years of already extreme falls in living standards would be disastrous, especially while profits continue to rise.

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