CANBERRA, AAP – Whether the global economy finds itself in the “Roaring Twenties” or a post-pandemic malaise depends on choices made now, the Reserve Bank has warned.
The post-pandemic world does not have to be risk-averse, with slow growth and subdued dynamism, RBA assistant governor Luci Ellis said at a business event on Thursday.
“People and firms can adapt and have done so,” she told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum.
Unlike the global financial crisis, “this time demand is bouncing back strongly, supported by policy”, she said.
“None of these advances can compensate for the loss of life from the pandemic itself,” she said.
“All the more reason not to compound the tragedy by choosing the path of risk aversion and slow recovery.”
Shifts in demand between goods and services have opened up some industry-specific business opportunities, including for new firms.
“Financial sectors globally are in good shape,” Dr Ellis said.
“Business sectors are also in much better financial shape than they were after the GFC.”
Profits have recovered quickly, and fiscal support has meant that some firms are considerably more cashed up than before, she said.
As well as remote working and teleconferencing, there are increased online sales, new products and services, new suppliers and an increased focus on what’s important.
“Even the supply disruptions that are on everyone’s mind can turn out to be the constraint that spurs some creativity,” she said.
There have been advances in medical technology, achievements in logistics in vaccine rollouts, and a new-found data literacy from tracking case numbers and vaccine coverage in the news media.
“Nobody can predict quite what will come from all of that,” she said.
But she was concerned the complexity of new technologies creates a barrier to entry.
The few firms that manage to harness these innovations gain an advantage that other firms can’t overcome.
“The result is a winner takes most world of increasing concentration. The question is how much incentive those winners have to keep innovating to forestall future rivals,” Dr Ellis said.
The RBA remains hopeful that wage growth will eventuate – one of its requirements for hiking interest rates – but market economists point to 2023 as the likely timeframe for a bigger pay check.
Hurdle rates on investment projects have remained high even as interest rates and the cost of capital have fallen since the GFC.
“If perceptions of risk increase, people will want pay-offs on investment projects to be further above the cost of finance,” she said.
“And because everyone perceives risk to be higher, potential rivals don’t enter. So the market power of the incumbent firms is preserved.”