Pandemic travel collapse continuing into 2021, says UN agency – dpa international

Pandemic curbs led to a collapse in travel and tourism, affecting visitor numbers to attractions such as Croagh Patrick, a pilgrimage mountain on Ireland's Atlantic coast (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said on Wednesday that first-quarter arrivals were down 83 per cent on the same period last year, as pandemic restrictions continued to hold back international travel. Official data collated by the United Nations agency showed Asia and the Pacific continuing “to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94 per cent drop in international arrivals over the three-month period.” North America reported the smallest decline, at 71 per cent, while arrivals in Europe were down by over 80 per cent. The UNWTO said the weak first-quarter numbers followed last year’s record annual 73-per-cent fall in arrival numbers worldwide, which cost the sector an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars, equivalent to Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Travel ground to a halt in March 2020 after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.

OECD says world economy to grow at an ‘uneven’ 6 per cent this year – dpa international

Businesses such as this retailer in Ireland have been foced to close by pandemic restrictions. Patrons seen here lining up to enter after the end of Ireland's third lockdown in May 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy could grow by “nearly 6 per cent” this year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Monday, while warning that recovery from pandemic-related losses will be “very uneven.” Growth will be driven by the world’s three main economic powers, with China’s gross domestic product (GDP) set to expand by more than 8 per cent, the Paris-based OECD said. The US should be close behind, registering nearly 7 per cent GDP growth, with the European Union clocking a higher-than-usual 4.25 per cent.But while this year’s projected rebound would amount to “an impressive surge after the 3.5-per-cent contraction in 2020” it is unlikely to return living standards “to the level expected before the pandemic” by the end of next year, the OECD said in its 2021 Economic Outlook, which noted that pandemic-related curbs have made it more difficult to estimate GDP and “may have reduced the comparability of economic outcomes across countries.” 

Asian exports and pandemic demand fuel record global trade rebound – dpa international

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for a time the world's tallest building

DUBLIN — Global trade enjoyed a record rebound in the first quarter of 2021, according to UN estimates, growing 10 per cent year-on-year largely on the back of booming exports from East Asia. Countries in the region thrived after “early success in pandemic mitigation,” which “allowed them to rebound faster and to capitalize on booming global demand for Covid-19 related products,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report published on Wednesday. China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam have been among the nations reporting relatively low virus-related death tolls and surging exports. Health care products, digital services and “home office” equipment were in high demand last year, UNCTAD said, though international travel and hospitality services lagged.

Lifeline remittances stay steady despite pandemic and recessions – dpa international

DUBLIN — Global remittances fell by 1.6 per cent last year to 540 billion dollars, a less-than-expected decline in what the World Bank labelled “lifeline” cashflows for millions of people. The global total, which amounts to around the same as Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP), held up far better than other economic indicators, according to a bank report published on Wednesday. The bank earlier estimated a global GDP fall of 4.3 per cent and a 30 per cent drop in foreign investment into low and middle-income countries in 2020.

Some Irish business sectors reviving ahead of end of long lockdown – dpa international

Pandemic restrictions have left usually-busy streets empty, such as in this west of Ireland town as seen in March 2021, nearly 3 months into Ireland’s 3rd stay-home lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s services industries picked up last month ahead of the government ending a third coronavirus lockdown, according to a survey of around 400 businesses published on Thursday. The jump was the strongest since the pandemic started, going by April’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which said “total activity and new business both increased at the fastest rates since February 2020.” Published by Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and IHS Markit, which produces monthly PMIs covering manufacturing and services in dozens of countries, the survey reported rising employment in media, telecoms and financial services, but said there was “broadly no change” in tourism or leisure, sectors unlikely to reopen until later this year. “Although much of the services sector remains in lockdown, the data are encouraging,” said AIB economist Oliver Mangan.

Online retail booms during pandemic but taxi and travel apps struggle – dpa international

DUBLIN — Online retail has boomed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with worldwide e-commerce sales last year topping 26 trillion dollars, according to estimates by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Online retail jumped from 16 per cent to 19 per cent of total retail last year, according to UNCTAD calculations published on Monday, while global e-commerce increased by 4 per cent for sales of 26.7 trillion dollars, more than the gross domestic product of the United States, the world’s biggest economy. Ten of the top 13 e-commerce firms are from China or the United States, with Alibaba topping the list ahead of Amazon, and Canada’s Shopify the highest-ranked from a third country at five. While share of online sales across the world’s major economies grew, as on-off lockdowns forced people to spend large chunks of time indoors, UNCTAD said there had been a “notable reversal of fortunes for platform companies offering services such as ride hailing and travel.”

Ireland set to end long-running pandemic lockdown next month – dpa international

The parish church in the Irish pilgrimage town of Knock, where Mass has not been celebrated in public since late 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland will end one of Europe’s longest and strictest pandemic lockdowns next month by accelerating a phased relaxation plan to allow restaurants and pubs to reopen sooner than expected and public religious services to resume. Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told broadcaster Newstalk on Thursday that “from the 10th of May there will be changes in restrictions, quite significant ones.”  Services such as hairdressers and “non-essential” retailers are expected to get the green light to reopen, with a ban on and related criminalisation of attending religious services expected to be lifted at the same time. The capacity limit on public transport is to be doubled from the current 25 per cent. Outdoor service at pubs and restaurants could resume in June, according to media reports that a revised reopening plan would be announced on Thursday – accounts Coveney said were “quite accurate.”

Lockdowns cause Irish government spending and debt to soar – dpa international

Shoppers in the west of Ireland loading their cars outside a supermarket. one of the handful of retailers allowed to stay open during Ireland's lockdowns (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus-related borrowing and spending caused an 18.4-billion-euro (22.01-billion-dollar) government deficit in Ireland last year, equivalent to around 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to official data published on Wednesday. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) said Dublin borrowed almost 14 billion euros to meet ballooning health and social costs incurred by pandemic restrictions, which have left hundreds of thousands of people out of work and dependent on state support. In 2019, the government reported a surplus of 1.9 billion euros, before a swing into the red of of more than 20 billion last year, even as GDP grew by 3.4 per cent due to surging exports in multinationals-dominated sectors such as pharmaceuticals and information technology.

Despite optimism about global economy, IMF warns of pandemic poverty rise – dpa international

Would-be shoppers in Castlebar in Ireland during the brief period between the country's 2nd and 3rd lockdowns. Retailers have suffered due to countries veering in and out of lockdown since the start of the pandemic (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday the world economy could recover faster than expected this year, revising its January projection up by 0.5 percentage points to 6 per cent.The United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, are likely to grow by 6.4 per cent and 8.4 per cent in 2021, driving the global rebound if pandemic-related economic curbs can be rolled back, the IMF said in a report published on Tuesday. But while “a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible,” according to the IMF’s Gita Gopinath, “divergent recovery paths” will likely result in increased poverty in so-called emerging markets and low-income countries, which could struggle to recover.

Unemployment to linger in Ireland after economy recovers – dpa international

Empty main street in Castlebar, a west of Ireland town, in early March 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s economy could recover “quite strongly” from pandemic-related curbs in 2021, but employment is unlikely to bounce back for at least two years, according to the state-funded Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). In a report published on Thursday, the ESRI cut its earlier 2021 gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast from 5.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent, citing the likely impact of Ireland’s ongoing third lockdown, which was imposed in late December. The ESRI said the revised projection assumes “a gradual easing of restrictions” from next month and that Covid-19 jabs “will facilitate the broad relaxation of public health restrictions in the second half of 2021.” Ireland’s economy grew by 3.4 per cent in 2020 on the back of record exports in multinational-heavy sectors that have thrived during the pandemic.