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FOLLOWING the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, European countries have managed to retrace its growth path as authorities deployed effective measures including social distancing, testing, quarantining, and weeks-long lockdown that managed to curb the outbreak which started in northern Italy.
It was attributed to spending programmes by national governments to revitalise their own economies, joint efforts among European Union countries, especially Germany and France in providing a joint recovery fund, and accommodative monetary policies executed by the European Central Bank (ECB), which were supported by the reopening of economies, and widening access to vaccines.
The third quarter of 2020 was the worst gross domestic product fall on record at 14.7% year-on-year, according to data. But the recovery did not come without a cost as we saw inflation rate accelerating at an exceptional pace.
As people became more concerned about buying services which involved face-to-face interaction, spending was concentrated on manufactured goods.
The reopening of economies has helped producers to reutilise their capacity.
Renewed lockdowns, which disrupted the global supply chain network together with input and labour shortages, had constrained producers’ recovery as delivery times had been delayed to record highs.,
As a result, consumers prices ballooned, threatening households’ purchasing power amid the still-shaky recovery foundation in the region. Inflation in the eurozone reached a record high of 5% in December 2021, much higher than the 2017 to 2019 monthly inflation average of 1.5%.
Moving into the early 2022, the global economy was shaken by the resurgence of a more transmissible Omicron variant.
Although Omicron is not as severe as its predecessor Delta, its contagious nature was more than enough to prompt authorities to reintroduce lockdowns in European countries.
With Omicron worries yet to fully subside, global headlines were further rocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which posed significant impediment to the European economies’ strong yet imperfect recovery.
As a deterrence, Western allies hammered the Russian economy by imposing a ban Russian commodities including oil, which caused supply concerns in the global oil market. The Brent price topped US$120 (RM534) per barrel in early March 2022, a level not seen since the year 2014.
But Europe’s dependency on Russia poses a question as to whether Europe can ultimately shift away from energy imports without triggering severe economic costs.
Russia supplied 40% of Europe’s natural gas last year.