World Bank: A slowdown might be on the way despite global growth at 3.1%

The World Bank forecasts global economic growth to edge up to 3.1% in 2018 after a much stronger-than-expected 2017, as the recovery in investment, manufacturing, and trade continues, and as commodity-exporting developing economies benefit from firming commodity prices.

However, this is largely seen as a short-term upswing, World Bank warned.

“Over the longer term, slowing potential growth—a measure of how fast an economy can expand when labor and capital are fully employed—puts at risk gains in improving living standards and reducing poverty around the world,” the World Bank states in its January 2018 Global Economic Prospects.

Growth in advanced economies is expected to moderate slightly to 2.2% in 2018, as central banks gradually remove their post-crisis accommodation and as an upturn in investment levels off, World Bank estimated.

Growth in emerging market and developing economies as a whole is projected to strengthen to 4.5% in 2018, as activity in commodity exporters continues to recover, the organization added. 

“The broad-based recovery in global growth is encouraging, but this is no time for complacency,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “This is a great opportunity to invest in human and physical capital. If policy makers around the world focus on these key investments, they can increase their countries’ productivity, boost workforce participation, and move closer to the goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.”

Weaker productivity growth, aging labor force to slow down growth

Though 2018 is on track to be the first year since the financial crisis that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity, policymakers—with slack in the economy expected to dissipate—will need to look beyond monetary and fiscal policy tools to stimulate short-term growth and consider initiatives more likely to boost long-term potential, Work Bank pointed out.

The slowdown in potential growth is the result of years of softening productivity growth, weak investment, and the aging of the global labor force, the organization explained.

The deceleration is widespread, affecting economies that account for more than 65% of global GDP, said World Bank.

“Without efforts to revitalize potential growth, the decline may extend into the next decade, and could slow average global growth by a quarter percentage point and average growth in emerging market and developing economies by half a percentage point over that period,” World Bank warned.

“An analysis of the drivers of the slowdown in potential growth underscores the point that we are not helpless in the face of it,” said World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics, Shantayanan Devarajan. “Reforms that promote quality education and health, as well as improve infrastructure services could substantially bolster potential growth, especially among emerging market and developing economies.”

However, some of these reforms will be resisted by politically powerful groups, which is why making this information about their development benefits transparent and publicly available is so important, Devarajan added.

Risks

Risks to the outlook remain tilted to the downside. An abrupt tightening of global financing conditions could derail the expansion. Escalating trade restrictions and rising geopolitical tensions could dampen confidence and activity. On the other hand, stronger-than-anticipated growth could also materialize in several large economies, further extending the global upturn.

Read more on