The effects of the 2008 financial crisis are still being felt, says the International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
She cites a new IMF study showing global productivity has slowed to 0.3 percent over the last decade, lower than the pre-crisis average of about 1 percent growth per year. Had productivity growth followed pre-crisis trends, Lagarde says the overall GDP in advanced economies would be about 5 percent higher.
Lagarde attributes the slowdown in labor productivity — the amount of goods and services produced by an average worker per hour — to three major headwinds: an aging global population, the slowdown in international trade, and the lasting impact of the 2008 financial meltdown.
The slowdown has been particularly abrupt in continental Europe, where five Eurozone member countries — Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus — required various emergency bailouts after being unable to refinance their sovereign debt.
Lagarde says strong policy actions, such as government-backed innovation, may be required to reverse the slowdown. For example, she says ramping up research and development by 40 percent could increase the gross domestic output (GDP) in advanced economies by as much as 5 percent, significantly improving demand at the same time in developing economies.
But to be effective, Lagarde says governments must provide clear signals about future economic policy and boost investment in education, worker training and infrastructure.
Lagarde made her comments Monday at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute in Washington, just two weeks before the World Bank and IMF annual spring meeting, at which member countries discuss challenges facing the global economy and ways to ensure financial stability around the world.