Global Economic Prospects
However, continuation of low and stable emerging market and developing economy inflation is by no means guaranteed. If the wave of structural and policy-related factors that have driven declines in inflation loses momentum, elevated inflation could re-emerge.
Furthermore, if the global inflation cycle turns up, emerging market and developing economy policymakers may find that keeping inflation low and stable may become as a great a challenge as getting there in the first place. To insulate economies from the impact of global shocks, options include strengthening institutions, including central bank independence, and establishing complementary fiscal policy frameworks.
Read more on the topic in the January 2019 Global Economic Prospects.
Emerging market and developing economies have achieved a significant decline in inflation since the mid-1970s, with median annual national consumer price inflation down from a peak of 17.3 percent in 1974 to about 3.5 percent in 2018. Declines in inflation over recent decades have been broad-based across regions and country groups.
Since 2013, median government debt in low-income countries has risen by 20 percentage points of GDP and increasingly comes from non-concessional and private sources. As a result, interest payments are absorbing an increasing proportion of government revenues in these countries.
This increase in public debt exposes low-income countries to greater currency, interest rate, and refinancing risks. At present 11 low-income economies are in debt distress or at a high risk of debt distress, up from six in 2015. Even those low-income countries that are at low or moderate risk of debt distress face eroding safety margins.
To shield themselves from the risks associated with high debt, low-income countries urgently need to strengthen the effectiveness of domestic resource mobilization, public investment and other spending, and debt management.
Debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) helped to reduce public debt among low-income countries from a median debt-to-GDP ratio of close to 100 percent in the early 2000s to a median of just over 30 percent in 2013. This downward trend reversed sharply thereafter, with the median debt ratio rising to above 50 percent by 2017. The rise was especially sharp for commodity exporters.
Rising debt raises fewer concerns about debt sustainability if it is used to finance investment that raises countries’ potential output, and therefore their ability to repay loans in the future. In some low-income countries, wider fiscal deficits were matched by higher public investment. For most low-income countries, however, a substantial part of the borrowing has been used to finance a rise in current consumption.
Download the January 2019 Global Economic Prospects report.
The informal sector — labor and business that is hidden from monetary, regulatory, and institutional authorities — accounts for about a third of GDP and 70 percent of employment (of which self-employment is more than a half) in emerging market and developing economies. While offering the advantage of employment flexibility in some economies, a large informal sector is associated with low productivity, reduced tax revenues, poor governance, excessive regulations, and poverty and income inequality.
Addressing the challenge of pervasive informality will require comprehensive policies that take into account country-specific conditions. Initiatives to boost long-term development might include measures aimed at reducing regulatory and tax burdens, expanding access to finance, improving education and other public services, and strengthening public revenue frameworks.
One-half of the world’s informal output and 95 percent of its informal employment is in emerging market and developing economies. Both informal output and employment have declined since 1990, particularly in countries with higher output growth, rapid physical capital accumulation, and larger improvements in governance and business climates.
Share of informal output and employment
Download the January 2019 Global Economic Prospects report.
Global growth sputtered in 2018 amid weakening trade and manufacturing, tighter financing conditions, and elevated policy uncertainties.
Growth decelerated in almost 80 percent of advanced economies and in nearly half of emerging market and developing economies in 2018. This year, it is expected to slow further in a majority of advanced economies and in about a third of emerging market and developing economies.
In all, global growth is predicted to moderate from 3.0 in 2018 to 2.9 percent in 2019 and an average of 2.8 percent in 2020-21, below previous forecasts.
Risks of even slower-than-expected growth have become more acute. Financial market pressures and trade tensions could escalate, denting confidence and further setting back growth prospects in emerging market and developing countries.
Here is a look at global economic prospects in five figures:
1. Global growth is moderating as trade and manufacturing lose momentum. The deceleration in global activity was more pronounced than previously expected in 2018, as reflected in softening export orders and industrial production growth. The slowdown in global trade came against the backdrop of ongoing trade tensions involving major economies. A. Global industrial production andnew export orders
A. Global industrial production and new export orders
Real activity indicators in Brazil improved markedly in 2017
Brazil’s recovery is expected to solidify in 2018. The economy is anticipated to grow 2 percent as improving labor conditions and low inflation support private consumption, and as policy conditions become more supportive of investment.
Sources: Haver Analytics, World Bank.
Notes: Lines show 3-month moving averages using non-seasonally-adjusted data. Last observation is October 2017.
Regional growth tumbled last year, led by oil exporters
Growth in the Middle East and North Africa is estimated to have slowed sharply to 1.8 percent in 2017 from 5 percent the year before, driven by decline in growth among oil exporters. Growth declined among Gulf Cooperation Council and non-GCC oil exporters, with oil production cuts and continued geopolitical tensions contributing to the fall-off.
Growth to pick up in region
Growth in the region was an estimated 6.5 percent in 2017. It is forecast to pick up to 6.9 percent in 2018 and stabilize around 7 percent over the medium term. The forecast assumes strengthening external demand as the recovery firms in advanced economies, and supportive global financing conditions. Monetary policy is expected to remain accommodative as modest fiscal consolidation proceeds in some countries.