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Global Growth to Slow through 2023, Adding to Risk of ‘Hard Landing’ in Developing Economies

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Following a strong rebound in 2021, the global economy is entering a pronounced slowdown amid fresh threats from COVID-19 variants and a rise in inflation, debt, and income inequality that could endanger the recovery in emerging and developing economies, according to the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report. Global growth is expected to decelerate markedly from 5.5 percent in 2021 to 4.1 percent in 2022 and 3.2 percent in 2023 as pent-up demand dissipates and as fiscal and monetary support is unwound across the world.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant indicates that the pandemic will likely continue to disrupt economic activity in the near term. In addition, a notable deceleration in major economies—including the United States and China—will weigh on external demand in emerging and developing economies. At a time when governments in many developing economies lack the policy space to support activity if needed, new COVID-19 outbreaks, persistent supply-chain bottlenecks and inflationary pressures, and elevated financial vulnerabilities in large swaths of the world could increase the risk of a hard landing.

“The world economy is simultaneously facing COVID-19, inflation, and policy uncertainty, with government spending and monetary policies in uncharted territory. Rising inequality and security challenges are particularly harmful for developing countries,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Putting more countries on a favorable growth path requires concerted international action and a comprehensive set of national policy responses.”

The slowdown will coincide with a widening divergence in growth rates between advanced economies and emerging and developing economies. Growth in advanced economies is expected to decline from 5 percent in 2021 to 3.8 percent in 2022 and 2.3 percent in 2023—a pace that, while moderating, will be sufficient to restore output and investment to their pre-pandemic trend in these economies. In emerging and developing economies, however, growth is expected to drop from 6.3 percent in 2021 to 4.6 percent in 2022 and 4.4 percent in 2023. By 2023, all advanced economies will have achieved a full output recovery; yet output in emerging and developing economies will remain 4 percent below its pre-pandemic trend. For many vulnerable economies, the setback is even larger: output of fragile and conflict-affected economies will be 7.5 percent below its pre-pandemic trend, and output of small island states will be 8.5 percent below.

Meanwhile, rising inflation—which hits low-income workers particularly hard—is constraining monetary policy. Globally and in advanced economies, inflation is running at the highest rates since 2008. In emerging market and developing economies, it has reached its highest rate since 2011. Many emerging and developing economies are withdrawing policy support to contain inflationary pressures—well before the recovery is complete.

The latest Global Economic Prospects report features analytical sections that provide fresh insights into three emerging obstacles to a durable recovery in developing economies. The first, on debt, compares the latest international initiative to tackle unsustainable debt in developing economies—the G20 Common Framework—with previous coordinated initiatives to facilitate debt relief. Noting that COVID-19 pushed total global debt to the highest level in half a century even as the creditors’ landscape became increasingly complex, it finds that future coordinated debt relief initiatives will face higher hurdles to success. Applying lessons from the past restructurings to the G20 Common Framework can increase its effectiveness and avoid the shortcomings faced by earlier initiatives.

“The choices policymakers make in the next few years will decide the course of the next decade,” said Mari Pangestu, the World Bank’s Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships. “The immediate priority should be to ensure that vaccines are deployed more widely and equitably so the pandemic can be brought under control. But tackling reversals in development progress such as rising inequality will require sustained support. In a time of high debt, global cooperation will be essential to help expand the financial resources of developing economies so they can achieve green, resilient, and inclusive development.”

The second analytical section examines the implications of boom-and-bust cycles of commodity prices for emerging market and developing economies, most of which are heavily dependent on commodity exports. It finds that these cycles were particularly intense in the past two years, when commodity prices collapsed with the arrival of COVID-19 and then surged, in some cases to all time-highs last year. Global macroeconomic developments and commodity supply factors will likely cause boom-bust cycles to continue in commodity markets. For many commodities, these cycles may be amplified by the forces of climate change and the energy transition away from fossil fuels. The analysis also shows that commodity-price booms since the 1970s have tended to be larger than busts, creating significant opportunities for stronger and more sustainable growth in commodity-exporting countries—if they employ disciplined policies during booms to take advantage of windfalls.

The third analytical section explores COVID-19’s impact on global inequality. It finds that the pandemic has raised global income inequality, partly reversing the decline that was achieved over the previous two decades. It has also increased inequality in many other spheres of human activity—in the availability of vaccines; in economic growth; in access to education and health care; and in the scale of job and income losses, which have been higher for women and low-skilled and informal workers. This trend has the potential to leave lasting scars: for example, losses to human capital caused by disruptions in education can spill over across generations.

Ayhan Kose, Director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, said: “In light of the projected slowdown in output and investment growth, limited policy space, and substantial risks clouding the outlook, emerging and developing economies will need to carefully calibrate fiscal and monetary policies. They also need to undertake reforms to erase the scars of the pandemic. These reforms should be designed to improve investment and human capital, reverse income and gender inequality, and cope with challenges of climate change.”

Regional Outlooks:

East Asia and Pacific: Growth is projected to decelerate to 5.1% in 2022 before increasing slightly to 5.2% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

Europe and Central Asia: Growth is forecast to slow to 3.0% in 2022 year and 2.9% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Growth is projected to slow to 2.6% in 2022 before increasing slightly to 2.7% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

Middle East and North Africa: Growth is forecast to accelerate to 4.4% in 2022 before slowing to 3.4% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

South Asia: Growth is projected to accelerate to 7.6% in 2022 before slowing to 6.0% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Growth is forecast to accelerate slightly to 3.6% in 2022 and rise further to 3.8% in 2023. For more, see regional overview.

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Vietnam’s economic growth is expected to accelerate to 5.5% in 2022

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Vietnam’s economic recovery is likely to accelerate in 2022 as GDP growth is expected to rise to 5.5% from 2.6% in the year just ended, the World Bank’s economic update for Vietnam Taking Stock says.

Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic will be brought under control at home and abroad, the forecast envisions that Vietnam’s services sector will gradually recover as consumer and investor confidence firms, while the manufacturing sector benefits from steady demand from the United States, the European Union, and China. The fiscal deficit and debt are expected to remain sustainable, with the debt-to-GDP ratio projected at 58.8 percent, well below the statutory limit.

The outlook, however, is subject to serious downside risks, particularly the unknown course of the pandemic. Outbreaks of new variants may prompt renewed social distancing measures, dampening economic activity. Weaker-than-expected domestic demand in Vietnam could weigh on the recovery. In addition, many trading partners are facing dwindling fiscal and monetary space, potentially restricting their ability to further support their economies if the crisis persists, which in turn could slow the global recovery and weaken demand for Vietnamese exports.

Careful policy responses could mitigate these risks. Fiscal policy measures, including temporary reduction of VAT rates and more spending on health and education, could support aggregate domestic demand. Support for affected businesses and citizens could be more substantial and more narrowly targeted. Social protection programs could be more carefully targeted and efficiently implemented to address the severe and uneven social consequences of the crisis. Heightened risks in the financial sector should be closely monitored and addressed proactively.

Entitled “NO TIME TO WASTE: The Challenges and Opportunities of Cleaner Trade for Vietnam,” this edition of Taking Stock argues that greening the trade sector should be a priority. Trade, while an important driver of Vietnam’s remarkable economic growth over the past two decades, is carbon-intensive —accounting for one-third of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions — and polluting.

While Vietnam has started to decarbonize activity associated with trade, more needs to be done to respond to mounting pressures from main destination markets, customers, and multinational companies for greener products and services.

“Trade will be key component of Vietnam’s climate actions in the years to come,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “Promoting greener trade will not only help Vietnam follow through on its pledge to reach net zero emission in 2050 but will also help it keep its competitive edge in international markets and ensure trade remains a critical income and job generator.

The report recommends the Government act on three fronts: facilitate the trade of green goods and services, incentivize green foreign direct investment, and develop more resilient and carbon-free industrial zones.

Taking Stock is the World Bank’s bi-annual economic report on Vietnam.

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Why cash is a critical resource with no substitute in cashless societies

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Many people feel that their right to use cash is at risk. The reason this is so significant might be lost on some, but cash is often an unheralded asset. Sentiment on the subject is so strong in the United Kingdom that a group of stakeholders recently launched a not-for-profit with the aim of safeguarding this ancient and critical resource.

The Cash Supply Alliance (CSA) will promote the widespread acceptance and availability of cash, so it remains a valid payment option for UK consumers of all demographics living anywhere in the country.

“We know that low income, rather than age, is the most accurate indicator for cash dependency,” explains Nigel Constable, Chairman of CSA. For many, it is also about the freedom to use cash, for budgeting, or to avoid card data being captured and monetised by private companies, he adds.

Though it is not taught in schools or discussed much day-to-day, cash plays a broad array of functions not easily replicated by other technologies. One extremely important quality is the capacity to protect an individual’s privacy.

 Protection of privacy

The very idea of privacy seems to become more and more diluted each year. The penetration of digital technology in our lives, and in the infrastructure that makes up our societies, makes this a pernicious problem. On top of this, the way in which data is used, for and against us, incentivises the erosion of basic rights, such as the right to a life free of surveillance.

In modern times, our phones and computers are monitored. Unfortunately, this is not fiction nor conspiracy: Facebook and other companies are even exploring the use of special data analysis techniques to mine even our encrypted data, as a way to eke out that little more bit value from users of their services.

Your card transactions already carry quantities of data that can be used to track your life, and your mobile phone never stops talking with the network providers that make its mystical powers function. For many digital payment technologies, privacy is patently impossible; and where that is not the case, companies are actively looking for ways to circumvent obstacles to their profits.

This is an area where cash offers one of the only antidotes: cash is inherently private, requiring no third-party services nor electronic systems to function. In many ways, it is one of the last bastions of privacy in our increasingly monetised society. For many citizens, this safe harbour is something far too important to lose without a fight.

Social inclusion

Another strength that cash offers is its power to provide social inclusion. Cash is a public good that belongs in the public domain. Unlike mobile payments or credit cards, the citizens of a country benefit from having banknotes available to them without needing to offer a private enterprise anything in return. In fact, cash is the only means of payment that is entirely public.

This vital quality is part of why Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella of the Court of Justice of the European Union stated that cash must be legally protected: “For those vulnerable individuals, cash is the only form of accessible money and thus the only means of exercising their fundamental rights linked to the use of money.”

No other mechanism protects vulnerable people’s rights to conduct payments. That is why, in the opinion of Pitruzzella, it should generally be forbidden to prevent the use of cash for payments.

 Cash and emergencies

The power of cash to help those in need goes beyond the routine difficulties of vulnerable people. It can also serve society at the worst possible periods.

During national emergencies, it is well-documented that people turn to cash for assurance. During financial crises, moments of political insecurity, and even most recently with the coronavirus pandemic — it is common for households to store cash as a lifeline. People sometimes fear that systems could break down, or that banks could even fail. In such instances, it offers great peace of mind to know that, no matter what happens, cash is available to keep life moving and food in the home.

This extends to extreme scenarios, such as humanitarian crises too. There are few things more essential for the migrating refugee than the ability to pay for essentials while they complete their uncertain journey. Phones might die, networks fail, but cash is one thing they can be sure of. That is why NGOs often hand out small packets of cash when they intervene in countries or regions in turmoil.

 Cash during disruption

Cash has another vital function: it is the stopgap when typical infrastructure fails. When power outages happen, or a technical fault in the ever-expanding digital supply causes disruption — cash is dependably there to catch the economy while it stumbles. When Visa went down around the world, followed weeks later by rival Mastercard’s outages in Europe, each time it was the humble banknote that kept the day’s transactions alive.

As the climate becomes more hostile, we can expect the robustness of our technology systems to be more frequently tested by extreme weather events. In many of these future scenarios, cash use will likely be the decider, determining whether people face a black day for businesses, or merely an inconvenient near-miss for the books. Simply put: it is important to value cash, as it cannot crash.

Cash in the cyber-world

Cash also cannot be hacked. Given the terrifying rise in cyber-attacks and ransomware incidents, many people are understandably sceptical about digital stores of value.

“In the digitalized system, it is easy for someone in Russia, China, whatever, to just shut it off,” according to Björn Eriksson, the former head of Interpol. “[Cash] you can hide in your car, or your stove, or whatever,” he highlights.

Many bankers and business people are also concerned about the trends in cybercrime; they are aware, following research, that the only truly robust means of payment is the banknote. All the rest can be ‘turned off,’ as it were.

With all of these different dimensions in mind, the status of cash as a critical resource becomes self-evident. All the same, whether cash remains available to the public in the coming years might be determined largely by how hard people try in getting their voices heard.

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COVID-19 variants, rising debt, threaten global economic growth

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Global growth will slow down over the next two years in the face of “fresh threats” from COVID-19 variants and rising inflation, debt and income inequality, the World Bank said on Tuesday in its latest report.

While economic growth experienced a strong rebound in 2021, it is expected to decline markedly from 5.5 per cent last year to 4.1 per cent in 2022, and drop to 3.2 per cent in 2023. 

Disruption and deceleration 

Given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disrupt economic activity in the near term, according to the Global Economic Prospects report. 

Furthermore, notable deceleration in major economies, including the United States and China, will have an impact on external demand in their emerging and developing counterparts. 

“The world economy is simultaneously facing COVID-19, inflation, and policy uncertainty, with government spending and monetary policies in uncharted territory. Rising inequality and security challenges are particularly harmful for developing countries,” said David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group. 

“Putting more countries on a favorable growth path requires concerted international action and a comprehensive set of national policy responses.” 

The slowdown will coincide with a widening divergence in growth rates between advanced and emerging or developing economies.  

Setback in fragile economies 

By 2023, all advanced economies will have achieved a full output recovery, the report said, but output in emerging and developing economies will remain four per cent below its pre-pandemic trend. 

The setback is even larger in fragile and conflict-affected economies, whose output will be 7.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic trend. For small island states, it will be 8.5 per cent below. 

Meanwhile, rising inflation is constraining monetary policy, with low-income workers particularly hit hard. Inflation is running at the highest rates since 2008, both globally and in advanced economies, and has reached its highest rate in a decade in emerging market and developing economies. 

Prioritize vaccine equity 

The report contains analytical sections that outline three emerging obstacles to durable recovery in developing economies. It also includes regional outlooks for growth over the next two years. 

Mari Pangestu, the World Bank’s Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, stressed the importance of multilateral collaboration as the choices policymakers make in the coming years will decide the course of the next decade. 

“The immediate priority should be to ensure that vaccines are deployed more widely and equitably so the pandemic can be brought under control. But tackling reversals in development progress such as rising inequality will require sustained support,” she said.  

“In a time of high debt, global cooperation will be essential to help expand the financial resources of developing economies so they can achieve green, resilient, and inclusive development.” 

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