Europe is on the mend, but the economic crisis that has plagued the region since 2008 is not over yet, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde has warned.
In an interview with German daily Handelsblatt published Monday , the IMF chief warned that in particular companies in southern Europe were still struggling to gain access to credit.
"The recovery is underway, that is correct. Some countries have successfully exited the aid programs. But that does not mean that the crisis is over and that our mission is accomplished," Lagarde told the paper.
Several euro zone countries, most notably Greece, faced financial ruin when high levels of public debt forced their borrowing costs up to unsustainable levels. International lenders stepped in to save them from bankruptcy. Some – like Greece – had been living beyond their means. Others, like Ireland, were brought to the brink by failing banks which they were forced to bail out.
Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland all entered toughausterity programs in return for aid, while Spain received EU funds to rescueits banking sector but avoided a full-blown bailout.
Lagarde warned that the low levels of inflation currently witnessed in the euro zone also posed risks to the recovery, echoing comments made by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
She called on the ECB to ease monetary policy to stimulate growth, but also encouraged governments to take measures to improve competitiveness, including structural reforms of the labor markets.
Lagarde also cautioned that the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – to which the IMF has already approved a $17 billion loan -- posed new risks to global growth.
She said it was difficult to predict the outcome of the crisis and to what extent the crisis might spread to other countries. "But it could have serious economic consequences".
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