The world’s ability to check the coronavirus contagion and fully recover from the worst peacetime recession since the Great Depression may depend on what international economic policy makers decide this week.

With emerging markets and developing nations facing health emergencies, collapsing demand and cash crunches, the guardians of the global economy are under the gun to ease the strains at this week’s video-conferenced meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“It’s a make-or-break moment,” said former IMF chief economist Maury Obstfeld. “This may be the greatest global crisis we’ve faced in the postwar period.”

Having all taken steps to support their individual economies, failure by the leading Group of 20 countries to now act together could consign the world to “reservoirs of disease” and trigger outward migration from poor countries on “a biblical scale,” said Obstfeld, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

A lack of forceful action could set the stage for damaging debt defaults and throw a roadblock in the way of any sort of robust recovery of the world economy. The dollar’s surge has been particularly painful for countries that ran up borrowing in greenbacks and which will now struggle to cover the loans, especially as their exports tumble.

G-20 finance ministers and central bankers will convene by conference call on Wednesday. They are planning to consider a freeze on bilateral government loan repayments for low-income countries, said an official familiar with discussions.

That fits a plan championed by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass. The World Bank in March estimated that $14 billion in service payments are due this year.

The fear is that if the emerging markets lag behind, “it means more of a U-shaped or an L-shaped kind of recovery for the U.S. and global economies,” said Nathan Sheets, a former U.S. Treasury official who’s now chief economist for PGIM Fixed Income.

While the U.S., Europe and Japan have opened up the monetary and budgetary spigots to fight Covid-19 and its economic after-effects, many emerging economies lack the scope to do so.

Morgan Stanley economists predict that emerging markets, excluding China, will shrink 4.1% in the current quarter, a deeper dive than the 3.1% of the first quarter of 2009 when the world was last in crisis, though shallower than what’s expected in richer economies. They also estimated in an April 3 report that the peak rate of growth during the recovery for those economies will be 6% in the second quarter of 2021 versus 7.7% in the same period of 2010.

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