Trade unexpectedly rebounded in 2017, after a period of slow growth and despite recent uncertainty about trade policy. Growth in the volume of trade in goods and services jumped to 4.3 percent in 2017—the fastest rate in 6 years (Figure 1). The recovery was widespread, with the largest contributions to growth coming from East Asia and the Euro area. Data just released for the first quarter of 2018 suggests that the faster growth persists: merchandise trade volumes grew by 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018 relative to the first quarter of 2017. What explains these developments?
What is foreign direct investment and why does Sri Lanka need it?
Very simply, foreign direct investment (or FDI) is an investment made by a company or an individual in a foreign country. Such investments can take the form of establishing a business in Sri Lanka, building a new facility, reinvesting profits earned from Sri Lanka operations or intra-company loans to subsidiaries in Sri Lanka.
The hope is that these investment inflows will bring good jobs and higher wages for Sri Lankan workers, increase productivity, and make the economy more competitive.
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Commodity prices strengthened in early 2018, supported by supply and demand factors, including accelerated global growth, which has lifted demand for most industrial commodities, and supply constraints affecting others.
Chart 1: Commodity prices are forecast to rise across the board
The energy price index is anticipated to rise 20 percent in 2018, largely on strengthening of oil prices. The increase is a 16-percentage point upward revision from October 2017. Metal prices are projected to increase 9 percent in 2018 due to a further pickup in demand. Agricultural prices are forecast to gain more than 2 percent.
2018 commodity price rise forecasts (percent change from 2017 to 2018)
After a prolonged slowdown, investment growth in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) picked up to 4.5 percent in 2017, and is projected to accelerate to 5.2 percent in 2018 and 2019 (investment refers to real gross fixed capital formation, public and private combined). Yet projected investment growth is below its long-term (1990–2017) average, inhibited by political uncertainty, trade risks, and expectations of rising interest rates. This will likely limit potential output growth and delay per-capita income convergence between EMDEs and advanced economies.
Energy commodity prices gained 8.2 percent in April, led by a 40 percent increase in U.S. natural gas prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.
Non-energy prices advanced 1.8 percent while agricultural prices increased 1.7 percent on higher prices for wheat (up 11 percent), rice and cocoa (4 percent rises each), soybean meal and tea (4 percent gains each). Fertilizer prices decreased 0.7 percent, led by a 5 percent drop in urea.
Metals prices gained 2.3 percent, led by gains in aluminum (up 9 percent) and nickel (4 percent rise).
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to deepen regional cooperation and improve connectivity on a trans-continental scale. While the scope of the initiative is still taking shape, the BRI consists primarily of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onwards to Europe, and the New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe. Six other economic corridors have been identified to link other countries to the Belt and the Road.
Global inflation has been trending up over the last two years, but is still subdued despite a broad-based recovery in economic activity. The reasons for this include the lingering impact of the 2007-2009 financial crisis on price and wage formation in advanced economies, as well as downward pressures associated with rapid technological changes and foreign competition.
Technology is transforming transport with a speed and scale that are hard to comprehend. The transport systems of tomorrow will be connected, data-driven, shared, on-demand, electric, and highly automated. Ideas are moving swiftly from conception, research and design, testbed to early adoption, and, finally, mass acceptance. And according to projections, the pace of innovation is only going to accelerate.
Autonomous cars are expected to comprise about 25% of the global market by 2040. Flying taxis are already tested in Dubai. Cargo drones will become more economical than motorcycle delivery by 2020. Three Hyperloop systems are expected by 2021. Maglev trains are already operating in Japan, South Korea, and China, and being constructed or planned in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA. Blockchain technology has already been used to streamline the procedures for shipping exports, reducing the processing and handling times for key documents, increasing efficiency and reliability,