Cyclist wearing mask on tram tracks
(Image: AAP/Daniel Pockett)

On Tuesday night, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will update its global growth forecast. It’s expected to confirm the path out of the depths of the slowdown will be slow and stuttering for the global and many national economies.

This will be very handy independent context for the federal government’s confident forecasts for international growth.

In last week’s budget, Treasury forecast global growth next year of 5%, and 3.5% in 2022. In June, the IMF forecast Australia’s 2020 growth at minus 4.5% in 2020 and a rise of 4% in 2021. The budget forecast 4.25% growth for calendar 2021.

In its June update, the IMF forecast global growth this year at minus 4.9%, followed by 5.4% in 2021. It also noted the higher degree of uncertainty around its numbers. If anything, the uncertainty will be even worse now — especially with the confused and bitter US election.

Surging infections across Europe and what looks like the beginning of a third wave in the United States will further complicate forecasts, with major economies like the UK and France ramping up local lockdowns and again closing or restricting the hospitality industry.

Persistently high infection rates will also continue to hamper tourism and transport, delaying any sustained recovery into 2021.

As Treasury noted in the budget, “there remains a risk that severe health and economic outcomes in a range of countries may put pressure on the global economic and financial architecture, which might lead to credit tightening and financial instability.”

The Reserve Bank (RBA) also flagged the risk of financial instability resulting from the pandemic in last week’s Financial Stability Review.

In that context, at least, Australia’s banks are well-positioned. The RBA notes that Australia’s “banks will remain very well capitalised, not even entering their capital conservation buffers”.

“Even if the economic contraction is substantially more severe under a downside scenario, banks would remain above their minimum capital requirements. Given their strong balance sheets, banks will be well placed to continue lending, supporting the economic recovery and so in turn the Australian financial system.”

Other countries may not be so fortunate.