More Jabs, More Jobs: EU Falls Behind in an Improved OECD Forecast for Economic Growth

Written by | Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Governments should speed up coronavirus vaccination programmes to boost the economy, the OECD has urged the European Union on Tuesday (9 March), as it gave a relatively upbeat assessment of the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. But the intergovernmental economic group’s revised growth forecasts come tinged with a warning to Europe that sluggish vaccine rollouts threaten to hold the economy back. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report forecasts global growth of 5.6% for 2021, a rise of 1% compared to its estimate in December last year. But for the eurozone, the anticipated increase in growth is significantly less: just 3.9%, compared to a December estimate of 3.6%, after a fall of 6.8% in Europe’s GDP in 2020.
Across the OECD’s 36 mostly rich-country member states, nearly 10 million more people than before the pandemic are now unemployed. “The best economic policy today is to vaccinate more, and more quickly. If we are at war against the virus, we have to give ourselves wartime resources to produce and distribute the vaccine,” Laurence Boone, the Paris-based group’s Chief Economist, told the media. “What we’re seeing is that when we’re in a country like Israel that has vaccinated a great deal, restrictions to movement have been lifted and economic activity is in the process of taking off at lightning speed. We see that with the United States, with the United Kingdom,” she explained. As of 8 March, whereas at least one vaccine dose had been given to nearly 58% of the population in Israel, it was only 18% in the US, and 33% in the UK compared to just over 6% in Germany and under 6% in France — although the latter countries have been reserving supplies for second jabs.
Meanwhile, the EU and UK have ignited a new row on vaccine exports, while Italy has defied EU warnings in a deal to manufacture Russia’s vaccine at home. The cross-Channel dispute arose on Tuesday (9 March) when EU Council President Charles Michel accused the UK of vaccine „export bans“ and depicted the EU as a leading force in helping the world fight the pandemic. The top EU official said he was “shocked” by the accusations of vaccine nationalism against the EU, after the establishment of a mechanism to control the exports of vaccines produced on its territory. While the EU “never stopped exporting” and “the majority” of the doses that enabled mass vaccination in Israel came from Belgium, Michel wrote, pointing the blame to the UK and the US that “decreed an outright export ban on vaccines or vaccine components.” London rejected the claims outright. “The British government has never blocked the export of a single vaccine. Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false,” a UK government spokesman said on Tuesday. It is the second time this year that a row breaks out between the UK and the EU over vaccine supplies.

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