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Global Economy to Expand by 3.1 percent in 2018, Slower Growth Seen Ahead

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Despite recent softening, global economic growth will remain robust at 3.1 percent in 2018 before slowing gradually over the next two years, as advanced-economy growth decelerates and the recovery in major commodity-exporting emerging market and developing economies levels off, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

“If it can be sustained, the robust economic growth that we have seen this year could help lift millions out of poverty, particularly in the fast-growing economies of South Asia,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “But growth alone won’t be enough to address pockets of extreme poverty in other parts of the world. Policymakers need to focus on ways to support growth over the longer run—by boosting productivity and labor force participation—in order to accelerate progress toward ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.”

Activity in advanced economies is expected to grow 2.2 percent in 2018 before easing to a 2 percent rate of expansion next year, as central banks gradually remove monetary stimulus, the June 2018 Global Economic Prospects says. Growth in emerging market and developing economies overall is projected to strengthen to 4.5 percent in 2018, before reaching 4.7 percent in 2019 as the recovery in commodity exporters matures and commodity prices level off following this year’s increase.

This outlook is subject to considerable downside risks. The possibility of disorderly financial market volatility has increased, and the vulnerability of some emerging market and developing economies to such disruption has risen. Trade protectionist sentiment has also mounted, while policy uncertainty and geopolitical risks remain elevated.

A Special Focus cautions that, over the long run, the anticipated slowdown in global commodity demand could put a cap on commodity price prospects and thus on future growth in commodity-exporting countries. Major emerging markets have accounted for a substantial share of the increase in global consumption of metals and energy over the past two decades, but growth of their demand for most commodities is expected to decelerate, the Special Focus section says.

“The projected decline in commodities’ consumption growth over the long run could create challenges for the two-thirds of developing countries that depend on commodity exports for revenues,” said World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics, Shantayanan Devarajan. “This reinforces the need for economic diversification and for strengthening fiscal and monetary frameworks.”

Another Special Focus finds that elevated corporate debt can heighten financial stability concerns and weigh on investment. Corporate debt—and, in some countries, foreign currency debt—has risen rapidly since the global financial crisis, making them more vulnerable to rising borrowing costs.

“Policymakers in emerging market and developing economies need to be prepared to cope with possible bouts of financial market volatility as advanced-economy monetary policy normalization gets into high gear,” said World Bank Development Economics Prospects Director Ayhan Kose. “Rising debt levels make countries more vulnerable to higher interest rates. This underlines the importance of rebuilding buffers against financial shocks.”

After many years of downgrades, consensus forecasts for long-term growth have stabilized, a possible signal the global economy is finally emerging from the shadow of the financial crisis a decade ago. However, long-term consensus forecasts are historically overly optimistic and may have overlooked weakening potential growth and structural drags on economic activity, the report cautions.

The report urges policymakers to implement reforms that lift long-term growth prospects. A rapidly changing technological landscape highlights the importance of supporting skill acquisition and boosting competitiveness and trade openness. Improving basic numeracy and literacy could yield substantial development dividends. Finally, promoting comprehensive trade agreements can bolster growth prospects.

Regional Summaries:

East Asia and Pacific: Growth in the region is forecast to ease from 6.3 percent in 2018 to 6.1 in 2019, reflecting a slowdown in China that is partly offset by a pickup in the rest of the region. Growth in China is anticipated to slow from 6.5 percent in 2018 to 6.3 percent in 2019 as policy support eases and as fiscal policies turn less accommodative. Excluding China, growth in the region is forecast to moderate from 5.4 percent in 2018 to 5.3 percent in 2019 as a cyclical economic recovery matures. Indonesia’s economy is expected to grow 5.2 percent rate this year and 5.3 percent the next. Growth in Thailand is expected accelerate to 4.1 percent in 2018, before moderating slightly to a 3.8 percent rate in 2019. For both commodity exporting and importing economies of the region, capacity constraints and price pressures are expected to intensify over the next two years, leading to tighter monetary policy in an increasing number of countries.

Europe and Central Asia: Growth in the region is projected to moderate to an upwardly revised 3.2 percent in 2018 and edge down to 3.1 percent in 2019 as a modest recovery among commodity exporting economies is only partially offset by a slowdown among commodity importers. In Turkey, growth is forecast to slow to 4.5 percent in 2018 and to 4.0 percent in 2019 as delays in fiscal consolidation and the extension of the credit support program temper an anticipated slowdown following the strong recovery last year. Growth in Russia is anticipated to hold steady at a 1.5 percent rate this year and accelerate to 1.8 percent next year as the effects of rising oil prices and monetary policy easing are offset by oil production cuts and uncertainty around economic sanctions.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Growth in the region is projected to accelerate to a downwardly revised 1.7 percent in 2018 and to 2.3 percent in 2019, spurred by private consumption and investment. The cyclical recovery underway in Brazil is projected to continue, with growth forecast to be 2.4 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2019. In Mexico, growth is expected to strengthen moderately to 2.3 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019 as investment picks up. Growth in Argentina is anticipated to slow to 1.7 percent this year as monetary and fiscal tightening and the effects of the drought dampen growth, and to remain subdued next year, at 1.8 percent. Growth in some Central American agricultural exporters is expected to pick up in 2018 and 2019, while growth among the commodity importers of that sub-region is expected to stabilize or slow. Economies of the Caribbean are forecast to see a lift to growth in 2018 from post-hurricane reconstruction, tourism, and supportive commodity prices.

Middle East and North Africa: Growth in the region is projected to strengthen to 3 percent in 2018 and to 3.3 percent in 2019, largely as oil exporters recover from the collapse of oil prices. Growth among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is anticipated to rise to 2.1 percent in 2018 and 2.7 percent in 2019, supported by higher fixed investment. Saudi Arabia is forecast to expand an upwardly revised 1.8 percent this year and 2.1 percent next year. Iran is anticipated to grow 4.1 percent in 2018 and by the same amount in 2019. Oil importing economies are forecast to see stronger growth as business and consumer confidence gets a lift from business climate reforms and improving external demand. Egypt is anticipated to grow 5 percent in Fiscal Year 2017/18 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) and 5.5 percent the following fiscal year.

South Asia: Growth in the region is projected to strengthen to 6.9 percent in 2018 and to 7.1 percent in 2019, mainly as factors holding back growth in India fade. Growth in India is projected to advance 7.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2018/19 (April 1, 2018-March 31, 2019) and 7.5 percent in FY 2019/20, reflecting robust private consumption and strengthening investment. Pakistan is anticipated to expand by 5 percent in FY 2018/19 (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019), reflecting tighter policies to improve macroeconomic stability. Bangladesh is expected to accelerate to 6.7 percent in FY 2018/19 (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019).

Sub-Saharan Africa: Growth in the region is projected to strengthen to 3.1 percent in 2018 and to 3.5 percent in 2019, below its long-term average. Nigeria is anticipated to grow by 2.1 percent this year, as non-oil sector growth remains subdued due to low investment, and at a 2.2 percent pace next year. Angola is expected to grow by 1.7 percent in 2018 and 2.2 percent in 2019, reflecting an increased availability of foreign exchange due to higher oil prices, rising natural gas production, and improved business sentiment. South Africa is forecast to expand 1.4 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent in 2019 as a pickup in business and consumer confidence supports stronger growth in investment and consumption expenditures. Rising mining output and stable metals prices are anticipated to boost activity in metals exporters. Growth in non-resource-intensive countries is expected to remain robust, supported by improving agricultural conditions and infrastructure investment

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Russia Among Global Top Ten Improvers for Progress Made in Health and Education

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Russia is among the top ten countries globally for improvements to human capital development over the last decade, according to the latest update of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI).

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data for 174 countries covering 98 percent of the world’s population up to March 2020.

Russia’s improvements were largely in health, reflected in better child and adult survival rates and reduced stunting. Across the Europe and Central Asia region, Russia, along with Azerbaijan, Albania, Montenegro, and Poland, also made the largest gains in increasing expected years of schooling – mainly due to improvements in secondary school and pre-primary enrollments. The report also shows that over the last 10 years Russia has seen a reduction in adult mortality rates. However, absolute values of this indicator remain high in the country with this progress now at risk due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Human capital contributes greatly to improving of economic growth in every country. Investments in knowledge and health that people accumulate during their lives are of paramount concern to governments around the world. Russia is among the top improvers globally in the Index. However, challenges persist and much needs to be done to improve the absolute values of Index indicators,” said Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank Country Director in Russia.

The HCI, first launched in 2018, looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.

Of the 48 countries in Europe and Central Asia included in the 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), 33 are among the upper-third in the world, and almost all are in the top half. However, there are significant variations within the region.

In Russia, a child born today can expect to achieve 68 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. It is at the average level for Europe and Central Asia countries and the third result globally among the countries of the same income group. There is a stark contrast between education and health subscales in Russia. While the education outcomes of the country are high and outperform many high-income peers, its health outcomes are below the global average.

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Accelerating Mongolia’s Development Requires a Shift “from Mines to Minds”

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A new report by the World Bank estimates that out of every dollar in mineral revenues Mongolia has generated over the past 20 years, only one cent has been saved for future generations. The report argues that to break this cycle, Mongolia should use its mineral wealth to invest in people and institutions, while gradually reducing its dependence on the sector.

This is particularly true as demand for key minerals is likely to tumble due to climate change concerns, a shift of investors’ preference toward sustainability, China’s ambitious goal to reduce coal consumption, and persistence of the COVID-19 shock, according to Mongolia’s Mines and Minds, the World Bank’s September 2020 Country Economic Memorandum for Mongolia.

Since the advent of large-scale mining in 2004, Mongolia’s economy has grown at an average rate of 7.2 percent per year, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Growth has translated to rapid decline – although at times partly reversed – in the incidence of poverty and improved quality of life. The report also notes that Mongolia enjoys relatively strong human capital, and its infrastructure capital has improved for the last few decades, though remains scarce given the size of the country and low population density. This performance has been made partly possible through a generous but inefficient social assistance system and a large public investment program supported by mineral revenues and external borrowing.

However, a number of enduring challenges have grown in the shadow of this success. Mongolia’s rapid growth has been obscured by its extreme macroeconomic volatility and frequent boom and bust cycles. Growth has almost entirely come through capital accumulation and the intensive use of natural capital rather than through sustained productivity growth. Meanwhile, the country has not only consumed almost all its mineral outputs, but has also borrowed heavily against them, bequeathing negative wealth to the next generation.

Instead of maximizing the benefits of its mineral wealth for diversified and inclusive growth, Mongolia has increasingly become more addicted to it. At the same time, human capital has been underutilized and institutional capital has eroded.” said Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. “Such inability to capitalize on the country’s endowments has resulted in limited diversification of outputs and exports and has further amplified its vulnerability to the swings of the global commodity markets. Breaking this gridlock calls for a fundamental shift in approach that puts investing in minds on an equal footing with mines.”

The report recommends key policy actions to build the foundation of a diversified and sustainably growing  economy. These include:

  • Implement countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies – supported through transparent fiscal rules, an independent fiscal council, a market-driven exchange rate, and a well-functioning stabilization fund – to smooth consumption over the business cycle rather than maximize current consumption.
  • Undertake bold investment climate reforms to enhance competition, secure investor rights, and create a more level playing field that enables productive firms to invest and grow.
  • Move away from the mindset of diversifying products to expanding endowments, especially in terms of better utilization of Mongolia’s young and educated, especially female, labor force.
  • Accelerate the implementation of fundamental governance reforms (especially on the government effectiveness and control of corruption) to reduce political interference, increase transparency, and improve regulatory quality throughout the economy.

“Fortunately, there are many encouraging signs of improved macroeconomic management in 2017-19, providing the new government an opportunity to advance its reform efforts,” said Jean-Pascal Nganou, World Bank Senior Country Economist and lead author of the report. “Some impressive fiscal outcomes were achieved not by introducing new reforms but by effectively implementing existing ones. They demonstrate that with the right political will and leadership, similar improvements are possible in other areas including monetary and exchange rate policy, the financial sector, the business environment, and the labor market. The new administration has, therefore, an opportunity to institutionalize these reforms and avoid policy regression in the future.”

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Nearly 9 in 10 People Globally Want a More Sustainable and Equitable World Post COVID-19

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In a new World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey of more than 21,000 adults from 28 countries nearly nine in ten say they are ready for their life and the world to change.

72% would like their own lives to change significantly and 86% want the world to become more sustainable and equitable, rather than going back to how it was before the COVID-19 crisis started. In all countries, those who share this view outnumber those who don’t by a very significant margin (more than 50 percentage points in every country except South Korea). Preference for the world to change in a more sustainable and equitable manner is most prevalent across the Latin America and Middle East-Africa regions as well as in Russia and Malaysia.

Next week’s World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit will address the achievement of the sustainable development goals and the appetite for transformation which will drive the “decade of delivery”.

Clear majority ready for a more sustainable and equitable world

Globally, 86% of all adults surveyed agree that, “I want the world to change significantly and become more sustainable and equitable rather than returning to how it was before the COVID-19”. Of those, 46% strongly agree and 41% somewhat agree, while 14% disagree (10% somewhat and 4% strongly).

Russia and Colombia top the list of countries that strongly or somewhat agree with that statement at 94%. They are followed by Peru (93%) Mexico (93%) Chile (93%) Malaysia (92%), South Africa (91%) Argentina (90%) and Saudi Arabia (89%). The countries that are most change averse – disagreeing somewhat or strongly disagreeing with the statement – are South Korea (27%), Germany (22%), Netherlands (21%), US (21%) and Japan (18%).

Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, at the World Economic Forum said, “The Great Reset is the task of overhauling our global systems to become more equitable and sustainable, and it is more urgent than ever as COVID-19 has exposed the world’s critical vulnerabilities. But the technology to transform things tends to outpace the human will to change. In six months, the pandemic has systematically broken down this cultural barrier and we are now at a pivot point where we can use the social momentum of this crisis to avert the next one.”

Ready for significant personal change

Across all 28 countries, 72% want their lives to change significantly rather than returning to what it was like before the COVID-19 crisis (30% strongly and 41% somewhat) while the other 29% disagree (21% strongly and 8% somewhat).

Latin America stands out for its optimism, with Mexico, Colombia and Peru in the top five countries strongly or somewhat agreeing. Agreement is also high South Africa (86%), Saudi Arabia (86%, Malaysia (86%) and India (85%). By contrast, at least two out of five adults in the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, the US, UK and Canada long for their life to just return to how it was before the pandemic.

MethodologyThese are the results of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 21,104 adults aged 18-74 in United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 23 other countries between August 21 and September 4, 2020. Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don’t knows or not stated responses.

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