War likely to slash Ukraine's economy by nearly half: World Bank

The World Bank report estimates that over half of Ukraine's businesses are closed. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Ukraine's economic output will likely contract by a staggering 45.1 per cent this year as Russia's invasion has shuttered businesses, slashed exports and rendered economic activity impossible in large swaths of the country, the World Bank said on Sunday (April 10) in a new report.

The World Bank also forecast Russia's 2022 gross domestic product (GDP) output to fall 11.2 per cent due to punishing financial sanctions imposed by the United States and its Western allies on Russia's banks, state-owned enterprises and other institutions.

The World Bank's War In The Region economic update said the Eastern Europe region, comprising Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, is forecast to show a GDP contraction of 30.7 per cent this year, due to shocks from the war and disruption of trade.

Growth in 2022 in the Central Europe region, comprising Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Romania, will be cut to 3.5 per cent from 4.7 per cent previously due to the influx of refugees, higher commodity prices and deteriorating confidence hurting demand.

For Ukraine, the report estimates that over half of the country's businesses are closed, while others still open are operating at well under normal capacity. The closure of Black Sea shipping from Ukraine has cut off some 90 per cent of the country's grain exports and half of its total exports.

The World Bank said the war has rendered economic activity impossible in large swaths of the country and is disrupting agricultural planting and harvest operations.

Estimates of infrastructure damage exceeding US$100 billion (S$136 billion) by early March - about two-thirds of Ukraine's 2019 GDP - are well out of date "as the war has raged on and caused further damage". The World Bank said the 45.1 per cent contraction estimate excludes the impact of physical infrastructure destruction but added this would scar future economic output, along with the outflow of Ukrainian refugees to other countries.

The World Bank said that the magnitude of Ukraine's contraction is "subject to a high degree of uncertainty" over the war's duration and intensity.

"The Russian invasion is delivering a massive blow to Ukraine's economy, and it has inflicted enormous damage to infrastructure," Ms Anna Bjerde, the bank's vice-president for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

"Ukraine needs massive financial support immediately as it struggles to keep its economy going and the government running to support Ukrainian citizens who are suffering and coping with an extreme situation."

The World Bank has already marshalled US$923 million in loans and grants for Ukraine and is preparing a further support package of more than US$2 billion. The aid has helped Ukraine pay salaries for essential workers and make pension and sovereign debt payments, despite drastically reduced tax revenues, World Bank officials said.

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