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UK economy shrank record 11% in 2020, worst since 1709

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  • UK recorded its biggest fall in output in more than 300 years in 2020.
  • Gross domestic product fell by 11.0% in 2020.
  • Revision in GDP reflects lower contributions from healthcare, retailers.

LONDON: Britain recorded its biggest fall in output in more than 300 years in 2020 when it faced the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a larger decline than any other major economy, updated official figures showed on Monday.

Gross domestic product fell by 11.0% in 2020, the Office for National Statistics said. This was a bigger drop than any of the ONS’s previous estimates and the largest fall since 1709, according to historical data hosted by the Bank of England.

British statisticians regularly update GDP estimates as more data becomes available.

The ONS’s initial estimates had already suggested that in 2020 Britain suffered its biggest fall in output since the “Great Frost” of 1709. But more recently the ONS had revised down the scale of the fall to 9.3%, the largest since just after World War One.

Even before the latest revisions, Britain’s economic slump was the largest in the Group of Seven, and the latest downward revision makes it greater than Spain’s, which recorded a 10.8% fall in output.

However, the ONS cautioned against direct comparisons with other countries as most – with the exception of the United States – had not yet undertaken the same type of in-depth revisions as Britain had.

The downward revision in GDP reflected lower contributions from healthcare and retailers than previously thought.

“The health service faced higher costs than we initially estimated, meaning its overall contribution to the economy was lower,” ONS statistician Craig McLaren said.

The ONS had already factored in a fall in routine care provided by Britain’s National Health Service as it focused on treating COVID-19 patients and limiting the spread of the disease in hospitals.

A closer look at the increased costs faced by individual retailers also led to a downward revision of the sector’s contribution, while factory output was revised up to take account of lower raw material costs.

Britain’s economy bounced back sharply last year and recovered its pre-pandemic size in November 2021. But fast-rising inflation means the Bank of England expects the economy will slip back into recession later this year.

The ONS will publish updated growth figures for 2021 and the first half of 2022 on September 30.

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Pakistan receives a $2 billion loan from China, according to the finance minister

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The $2 billion loan was one year ahead of schedule and became due in March. According to reports, Beijing had informed Islamabad of the decision.

The International Monetary Fund granted Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy a $3 billion standby arrangement last summer, but the country is still battling to recover from the financial crisis.

According to ratings firm Fitch, one of the top concerns confronting the next administration would be obtaining funding from bilateral and multilateral partners due to Pakistan’s precarious foreign situation, as was stated last week.

This event occurs one month after Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting prime minister, asked for a $2 billion loan to be rolled over for a year in a letter to his Chinese counterpart.

In his letter, Kakar also expressed gratitude for China’s efforts to lessen Pakistan’s load

of foreign payments.

It is to be noted that Pakistan acquired safe deposits of $4 billion from China to address the balance of payments issue.

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“Ready to work with Pakistan’s new government,” the IMF said.

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In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

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In a new IMF agreement, Pakistan would “raise” the FBR tax-to-GDP ratio to 15%.

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The state bank reserves will be maintained at a level equivalent to three months’ worth of import bills, according to sources in the Finance Ministry.

According to sources, the ministry has also set a goal to maintain the primary balance surplus and reduce the current account deficit.

The ministry insisted that once the existing agreement expires, a new one would be negotiated with the IMF, and that the IMF will also be guaranteed that the requirements will be implemented prior to the agreement being finalised.

The founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) demanded that an audit of the election results be conducted before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved any additional loans for Islamabad. However, the IMF showed earlier today that it was eager to cooperate with the new administration in Pakistan by disregarding the demand.

According to Bloomberg News yesterday, Pakistan is to apply for a fresh $6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to assist the next government in paying off billions of dollars in debt that comes due this year.

According to the article, the nation would attempt to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, and it was anticipated that discussions with the international lender would begin in March or April.

Thanks to a short-term IMF bailout, Pakistan avoided defaulting last summer. However, the plan expires next month, and the next administration will need to negotiate a long-term deal to keep the $350 billion economy steady.

The IMF forced the South Asian country to enact a number of reforms prior to the rescue, including raising its benchmark interest rate, changing its budget, and raising the cost of natural gas and electricity.

According to a fund spokeswoman, the IMF staff is still in communication with authorities on the necessary longer-term reform initiatives. The fund is also prepared to assist the post-election government in addressing Pakistan’s ongoing issues by means of a new arrangement, should that request be made.

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