‘Fiscal Cliff’ Could Trigger US Recession: IMF Economist

Going over the fiscal cliff could cause a U.S. recessionnext year, Olivier Blanchard, the International Monetary Fund's chief economist, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters building is seen in Washington, DC.
Yuri Gripas | Getty Images
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters building is seen in Washington, DC.

“If the fiscal were to happen, it would be a major macroeconomic event,” Blanchard said. The fiscal cliff is when a host of tax cuts expire and automatic spending cuts kick in at the end of the year.

Blanchard said the IMF’s 2 percent U.S. economic growth forecast is based on fiscal consolidation of about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product next year, but the fiscal cliff would represent a 4 percent consolidation. “It would probably kill growth in the U.S. next year and probably kill growth in advanced economies,” Blanchard said.

He added, “I think that if the U.S. fell off the fiscal cliff, I’m quite sure we’d see negative growth in the U.S. next year.”

On Monday, the IMF cut its global growth forecast and cautioned that the outlook could worsen if Europe does not quell its debt crisis.

The IMF shaved its 2013 forecast for global economic growth to 3.9 percent from the 4.1 percent it projected in April, trimming projections for most advanced and emerging economies. It left its 2012 forecast unchanged at 3.5 percent. (Related: Countries With the Highest Unemployment Rates).

“It’s not the end of the world, but clearly that’s not a very strong recovery,” Blanchard said of the forecasts. “They’re based on assumptions which may or may not turn out to be right."

Right now, Blanchard said the estimates assume the European crisis will ease, the U.S. will avoid the fiscal cliff and emerging markets will “do the right thing” to support growth.