The broth, the cup … Whatever aquatic metaphor you use, the observation remains: the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the economies, those of Europe in the lead. In the first half of 2020, the French gross domestic product (GDP) fell by almost 19% compared to the end of 2019, but Spain with −23% and the United Kingdom, with −22%, did worse than us. “These tumbles are unparalleled since the Second World War, or even since the crash of 1929”, summarizes Marc Touati, economist and president of the ACDEFI cabinet. By mid-2020, the level of French GDP had returned to that of 2002. In this generalized disaster, Italy hit rock bottom, with a level of national wealth down to that of… 1993!
Everywhere, the curves of this decrease followed those of containment: the countries that are doing the least well are those which have chosen to contain heavily, placing schools, businesses, hotels and other services or industries at a standstill. Conversely, countries like Germany, where confinement was shorter, and above all limited to certain Länder, limited the breakage: while during confinement, 90% of our construction sites were stopped, it was the case for only 25% of shipyards across the Rhine. Everywhere, vigorous stimulus policies and, above all, recourse to short-time work helped cushion the crisis: in April, at the heart of the first wave, 30 million French, Germans, Italians, Spaniards and English were on short-time work .
And now, what will happen in European countries? After a slight improvement this summer, France in particular has fallen back into recession since September. And the future is hardly more cheerful. “A global reconfinement would be catastrophic for the European economies, because all the companies which held out thanks to aid, to loans guaranteed by the State, will not be able to restart their production and therefore repay their debts, the risk of chain bankruptcies is therefore enormous ”, warns Marc Touati.
Meanwhile, China is recovering
“Such a decision would be fatal for many companies”, abounds the economist Stéphanie Villers, co-author with Henri Sternydiak of “Economic crisis of 2020. Towards a new world? »(Economica Publishing). Particularly in the countries of southern Europe, which are very weak, while German industry, known for its robustness, has already started to pick up. “The risk for the months, or even the years to come, is that there will be a caesura within the euro zone, the countries would then differ on the economic policy to be carried out, and the countries of the North, Scandinavia included, would balk at finance those in the South, ”she warns. After the economic danger, political uncertainty.
While on the other side of the world, where the first signs of the epidemic were observed, China, confined for a whole quarter, seems to have ruled out a new health threat and is recovering quickly. “In 2020, notes Stéphanie Villers, it will be the only G20 country to return to positive growth, of the order of 1%, against −9% for France for example. “