WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2021 — The global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial
COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year. A recovery, however, will likely be
subdued, unless policy makers move decisively to tame the pandemic and implement investment-enhancing
reforms, the World Bank says in its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects.
Although the global economy is growing again after a 4.3% contraction in 2020, the pandemic has caused a
heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and
incomes for a prolonged period. Top near-term policy priorities are controlling the spread of COVID-19 and
ensuring rapid and widespread vaccine deployment. To support economic recovery, authorities also need to
facilitate a re-investment cycle aimed at sustainable growth that is less dependent on government debt.
“While the global economy appears to have entered a subdued recovery, policymakers face formidable
challenges—in public health, debt management, budget policies, central banking and structural reforms—as
they try to ensure that this still fragile global recovery gains traction and sets a foundation for robust growth,”
said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter
the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labor
and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance.”
The collapse in global economic activity in 2020 is estimated to have been slightly less severe than previously
projected, mainly due to shallower contractions in advanced economies and a more robust recovery in China.
In contrast, disruptions to activity in the majority of other emerging market and developing economies were
more acute than expected.
“Financial fragilities in many of these countries, as the growth shock impacts vulnerable household and
business balance sheets, will also need to be addressed,” Vice President and World Bank Group Chief
Economist Carmen Reinhart said.
The near-term outlook remains highly uncertain, and different growth outcomes are still possible, as a section
of the report details. A downside scenario in which infections continue to rise and the rollout of a vaccine is
delayed could limit the global expansion to 1.6% in 2021. Meanwhile, in an upside scenario with successful
pandemic control and a faster vaccination process, global growth could accelerate to nearly 5 percent.
In advanced economies, a nascent rebound stalled in the third quarter following a resurgence of infections,
pointing to a slow and challenging recovery. U.S. GDP is forecast to expand 3.5% in 2021, after an estimated
3.6% contraction in 2020. In the euro area, output is anticipated to grow 3.6% this year, following a 7.4%
decline in 2020. Activity in Japan, which shrank by 5.3% in the year just ended, is forecast to grow by 2.5% in
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