Economic Tremors in the Middle East: A Warning from the IMF



by FARUK IMAMOVIC

Economic Tremors in the Middle East: A Warning from the IMF
© Getty Images News/Leon NEal

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, has shed light on the economic repercussions of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Addressing the matter on a global platform, Georgieva emphasized the potential of the conflict to produce significant, long-lasting economic damage to the Middle East.

In her conversation with CNN's Richard Quest during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Saudi Arabia, Georgieva poignantly remarked, “What we see is more jitters in what has already been an anxious world. And on a horizon that has had plenty of cloud, one more and it can get deeper”.

Such commentary suggests an escalating anxiety about the region's economic trajectory. While the tragic loss of life remains at the forefront of concerns, Georgieva highlighted that the Fund is also deeply troubled by the "destruction and reduction of economic activity." This encompasses everyday activities, such as children being unable to attend school and the potential fallout on neighboring countries heavily reliant on tourism revenues.

A Shift in Economic Dynamics

But the conversation wasn't limited to just the war. Georgieva pivoted to a broader global economic perspective, raising a flag on another pressing issue: interest rates. The era of remarkably low interest rates, often hovering at zero or even negative, appears to be concluding.

She candidly admitted, “We have spent the last 20 years, living frankly in terms of interest rates, in fantasy land." The world may need to brace for a new reality. According to the IMF's chief, "It is actually going to [be] normal to have interest rates that are in positive territory.

" However, Georgieva expressed concern about the rapidity of this transition, suggesting it might be too swift for the global economy to adjust without hiccups. The sudden jump, as she put it, "is too high." When probed further about the Fund's stance on this change, given that low interest rates were often seen as beneficial, she clarified, “We’re not thrilled with going from 0 to 5 [percent] so quickly – but we’re there.

So now we’re there, our call to everybody is – buckle up. Make sure that you understand interest rates are here to stay for longer”. In this age of global economic intricacies, the message from the IMF is clear.

Regional conflicts and global financial dynamics are intertwined, and the world should be prepared for the challenges ahead.