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2022 Tough, More in 2023


FILE: Fireworks are set off at midnight during the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, early Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in New York.

This was supposed to be the comeback year for the world economy following the Covid pandemic. Instead, 2022 was marked by a new war, record inflation and climate-linked disasters. It was a "polycrisis" year, a term popularized by historian Adam Tooze.

Get ready for more gloom in 2023.

"The number of crises has increased since the start of the century," said Roel Beetsma, professor of macroeconomics at the University of Amsterdam

"Since World War Two we have never seen such a complicated situation," he told AFP.

After the Covid-induced economic crisis of 2020, consumer prices began to rise in 2021 as countries emerged from lockdowns or other restrictions.

"Everything has become more expensive, from cream to wine and electricity," said Nicole Eisermann from her stand at the Frankfurt Christmas market.

Central banks played catch-up. They started to raise interest rates this year in an effort to tame galloping inflation -- at the risk of tipping countries into deep recessions, since higher borrowing costs mean slower economic activity.

Rising interest rates have also hurt consumers and businesses, though US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell signaled last week that the pace of hikes could ease "as soon as" December.

He warned, however, that policy will probably have to remain tight for some time to restore price stability.

For her part, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde sent a clear signal that the ECB would maintain its tightening policy, saying that eurozone inflation had yet to peak.

Economists expect Germany and another major eurozone economy, Italy, to fall into recession. Britain's economy is already shrinking. Rating agency S&P Global foresees stagnation for the eurozone in 2023.

But the International Monetary Fund still expects the world economy to expand in 2023, with growth of 2.7 percent. The OECD is forecasting 2.2-percent growth.

But for Beetsma, the biggest crisis is climate change, which is "happening in slow motion".

Natural and man-made catastrophes have caused $268 billion in economic losses so far in 2022, according to reinsurance giant Swiss Re. Hurricane Ian alone cost an estimated insured loss of $50-65 billion.

Floods in Pakistan resulted in $30 billion in damage and economic loss this year.

Governments agreed at United Nations climate talks (COP27) in Egypt in November to create a fund to cover the losses suffered by vulnerable developing countries devastated by natural disasters.

But the COP27 summit ended without new commitments to phase out the use of fossil fuels, despite the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

"It is not an acute crisis but a very long-term crisis, protracted," Beetsma said. "If we don't do enough this will hit us in unprecedented scale."

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