Cowen cautioned that many technological advances would doubtlessly improve human welfare but still might not show up in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity statistics. For example, the new plug-and-play vaccine platforms may well result in highly effective vaccines for malaria and HIV, and that would be a huge boon for millions of people living in poor countries, but those benefits would be unlikely to show up U.S. GDP per capita statistics. He also pointed out that the recent significant advances in green energy production are occurring chiefly as a way to avoid the possible catastrophe of man-made climate change. Because climate change is a hidden counterfactual, replacing fossil fuels with solar, wind, and batteries would not necessarily lead people to feel as though their standard of living had risen.
Strain countered that the toll that infectious disease takes on the stunting of talents and skills in poor countries would be greatly ameliorated by rolling out cheap effective vaccines now made possible by messenger RNA technology. Over a longer time horizon, the U.S. and the rest of the world would significantly benefit from efflorescence of invention and entrepreneurship arising in regions whose development is held back by prevalent plagues.
ON MARCH 5TH at its annual parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s government revealed an economic-growth target of “more than 6%” for this year, a bar it is expected to clear with ease. Take the latest data. China’s key economic indicators for January and February, published on Monday, were buoyant. Industrial production and retail sales, for example, are soaring—35.1% and 33.8% higher than a year ago, respectively, beating consensus forecasts. Fixed-asset investment surged by 35% year on year, but still fell below expectations.
This year’s rocket-fuelled figures are even harder to decipher than usual because they are compared with record lows last year, during the first wave of covid-19 outbreaks. Macquarie, a bank, says that if you remove the effect of the pandemic, underlying retail sales were up by 3.1% for the first two months of 2021. This implies consumption accelerated after a few small outbreaks were brought under control in Beijing in January. Oxford Economics, a research group, says it expects household consumption to become the main engine of economic growth from the second quarter of 2021, as travel restrictions are eased. But in the first quarter, growth will remain sluggish.
The world economy is likely to grow by around 6% this year, according to Oxford Economics, the fastest rate in almost half a century, as vaccine campaigns allow pandemic restrictions to be lifted and businesses to snap back.
For the first time since 2005, the U.S. is expected this year to make a bigger contribution to global growth than China, said the research firm. After the 2008 financial crisis, the global economic recovery was powered by China, as the U.S. experienced the weakest revival since the Great Depression.
Coronavirus vaccines will hopefully get economies humming this year, as people feel comfortable returning to shops, businesses reopen and workers get jobs again. The International Monetary Fund expects the global economy to grow 5.5% this year following last year’s 3.5% plunge.
A stronger economy often coincides with higher inflation, though it’s been generally trending downward for decades. Congress is also close to pumping another $1.9 trillion into the U.S. economy, which could further boost growth and inflation.