German economy to shrink by 5.2% this year, grow by 5.1% next year

The Skyline of Frankfurt is pictured from the 27th floor of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on September 14, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

German economy to shrink by 5.2% this year, grow by 5.1% next year

  • The number of people out of work is seen rising to 2.7 million this year from 2.3 million in 2019
  • The Ifo institute cautioned that there was an unusually high degree of uncertainty attached to the forecasts

BERLIN: Germany’s Ifo institute on Tuesday said Europe’s largest economy would likely shrink by 5.2 percent this year, raising its previous estimate for a 6.7 percent drop, in the latest sign the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could be smaller than initially feared.
“The decline in the second quarter and the recovery are currently developing more favorably than we had expected,” Ifo chief economist Timo Wollmershaeuser said.
For 2021, Ifo cut its economic forecast for Germany to 5.1 percent growth from its previous estimate of 6.4 percent. It expects the economy to expand by 1.7 percent in 2022.
The number of people out of work is seen rising to 2.7 million this year from 2.3 million in 2019, before edging down to 2.6 million in 2021 and then to 2.5 million in 2022.
That would translate into a jump in the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent this year from 5.0 percent last year. The rate would then drop to 5.7 percent percent in 2021 and 5.5 percent in 2022, Ifo said.
The Ifo institute cautioned that there was an unusually high degree of uncertainty attached to the forecasts. It pointed to the rising number of coronavirus infections, the risk of a disorderly Brexit and unresolved trade disputes.


Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

Updated 22 October 2020

Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

  • The problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year in Morocco

RABAT: Two years of drought have drained reservoirs in southern Morocco, threatening crops the region relies on and leading to nightly cuts in tap water for an area that is home to a million people.

In a country that relies on farming for two jobs in five and 14 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year.

In the rich citrus plantations of El-Guerdan, stretching eastward from the southern city of Agadir, more than half of farmers rely on two dams in the mountains of Aoulouz, 126 km away, to irrigate their trees.

However, that water has been diverted to the tourist hub of Agadir, where mains water has been cut to residential areas every night since Oct. 3 to ensure taps in households did not run entirely dry.

“The priority should go to drinking water,” Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said in parliament last week.

In El-Guerdan, Youssef Jebha’s crop of clementine oranges has been compromised by reduced water supply, he said, which affects both the quality of fruit and the size of the harvest.

“The available ground water is barely enough to keep the trees alive,” said Jebha, who is head of a regional farmers’ association.

“Saving Agadir should not be at the expense of El-Guerdan farmers,” he added, speaking by phone.

‘We hope for rain’

El-Guerdan is not alone in facing drought. Morocco’s harvest of cereals this year was less than half that of 2019, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars of extra import costs.

Despite lower production, Moroccan exports of fresh produce have risen this year by 8 percent. 

Critics of the government’s agricultural policy say such sales are tantamount to exporting water itself, given the crops use up so many resources.

A report by Morocco’s social and environmental council, an official advisory body, warned that four-fifths of the country’s water resources could vanish over the next 25 years.

It also warned of the risks to social peace due to water scarcity. In 2017, 23 people were arrested after protests over water shortages in the southeastern city of Zagora.

In January the government said it would spend $12 billion on boosting water supply over the next seven years by building new dams and desalination plants.

One $480 million plant, with a daily capacity of 400,000 cubic meters, is expected to start pumping in March, with the water divided between residential areas and farms.

Until then, “We hope for rain,” the agriculture minister said in parliament.

In El-Guerdan, the farmers are digging for water. A new well costs $20,000-30,000. However, “there is no guarantee water can be found due to the depletion of ground reserves,” said Ahmed Bounaama, another farmer.