G20 Leaders concluded their summit over the weekend in Brisbane, Australia. G20 summits represent the culmination of a process of preparatory work and discussion that lasts a whole year. Concerns about weak prospects for global growth and job creation took center stage in the G20 agenda this year. Economic recovery in advanced economies has been slow and uneven and growth in the faster-growing emerging economies also has slowed. There is a growing recognition that restoring more robust global growth requires not only addressing the legacies of the global financial crisis but also implementing deeper, structural reforms to raise potential growth.
Against this background, all G20 countries were asked to prepare medium-term growth strategies to provide a systematic framework for addressing policies and priorities in the growth agenda. The strategies that have been prepared are comprehensive in scope, spanning macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth. They have a particular focus on four policy areas that the Australian G20 Presidency emphasized as key elements of the growth agenda, namely, investment and infrastructure, employment, competition and business environment, and trade. The emphasis in the strategies on investment and structural reforms is appropriate: while the proper calibration of macroeconomic policies is important to support aggregate demand in the short term, in the medium term it is the productivity-enhancing structural reforms and investments that will drive strong and sustainable growth. The strategies have benefited from an extensive process of discussion and peer review within the G20, supported by technical assessments prepared by international organizations. Final versions of these strategies were released yesterday together with the Leaders’ Communiqué and the Brisbane Action Plan (which provides an overview of these strategies).
International trade has undergone a radical transformation in the past decades as production processes have fragmented along cross-border value chains. The Brazilian economy has remained on the fringes of this production revolution, maintaining a very high density of local supply chains. This article calls attention to the rising opportunity costs incurred by such option taken by the country.
Moving Tectonic Plates under the Global Economic Geography
In recent decades, international trade has gone through a revolution, with the wide extension of the organization of production in the form of cross-border value chains. This extension was a result of the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, the incorporation of large swaths of workers in the global market economy in Asia and Central Europe, and technological innovations that allowed modularization and geographic distribution of production stages in a growing universe of activities. International trade has grown faster than world GDP and, within the former, the sales of intermediate products has risen faster than the sale of final goods.
India has covered a long distance in what seems like a short time. Once proudly reckoned as one of the BRICS countries, it is now making frequent headlines in the international financial press as one of the financially fragile countries (fragile 5, fragile 8, edgy eight etc.). Like many other emerging markets in the world, India is feeling the pinch of the global liquidity retrenchment and rebalancing on its exchange rate and capital flows. Several observers have rationalized the investors’ behavior on account of the hard data on the Indian economy: growth has decelerated (from 8.9 % two years ago to 4.5 percent in fiscal year 2013), current account deficit is reigning high, inflation remains stubbornly high, and savings and investment rates have been falling. And all of this is happening amidst an upcoming national election, when elections anywhere invariably are associated with political and economic uncertainty.
What would it take for India to regain its place in a more revered acronym soon, rather than a less flattering fragile ‘n’ ensemble?
Last week I attended the Gaidar Forum in Moscow. Yegor Gaidar was an economist who became the architect of the Russian market economy as deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation in 1992. Like Leszek Balcerowitz in Poland and Vaclav Klaus in Czechoslovakia, Gaidar was a pioneer of the shock therapy: rapid liberalization of prices; opening up of borders to allow free international trade; and privatization of capital. Gaidar died in 2009 at an age of 53. In his memory the Gaidar Forum was organized for the first time in 2010. This was the fifth time the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration organized this annual conference that brings together ministers, academics, and business people.
[All numbers cited in this essay are from the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects. The analysis is mine.]
The economic prospect for the world in 2014 is best described as uneventful. It is a strange world we live in that this is the good news. After six years of turmoil marked by financial crises and long stretches of recession in several countries, it is indeed heartening that we are headed for uneventful times with a slow pick-up in global growth.
The world in 2013 grew by 2.4%. We are forecasting a growth of 3.2% in 2014. This is the point forecast. There is a lot that is happening around it, with some countries expected to make a strong recovery, some weak, and some actually slowing. And for each country there are bands of possibilities around their respective point forecasts.
A New Year traditionally comes with upbeat thoughts. New resolutions will make life better. Past mistakes will not be repeated. And calamities are seldom predicted. These positive thoughts are not always justified, but they provide necessary energy during the first cold months of the year all the same.
At the beginning of 2014 some economic optimism actually seems defensible. Five years after the start of the global financial crisis, Europe is finally exiting their recession, albeit slowly and hesitantly. The U.S. economy is accelerating and so is growth of global production and trade. True, the BRICs are no longer as vibrant as they have been for a long time, but growth in China (a key concern of markets in recent days) is still expected to be three and a half times growth in high income countries.
Given the tradition of New Year’s optimism it is salient that the EBRD starts the New Year on a rather gloomy note with their new Transition Report. The title of this year’s report is "Stuck in transition?." But in the text they change the question mark into a firm exclamation mark, even as the report contains some suggestions of ways to escape the current impasse.
Kaushik Basu has a new piece being carried by Project Syndicate that appeared in The Global Times, one of China's leading English language news sites. Titled 'Policy stasis raises odds of 'L-shaped' recovery', it cautions that the tenuous recovery in advanced countries, while buoyed by the latest US indicators, will only hold if economists and policymakers move away from ‘stasis’ positions that fail to promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
He warns that avoiding analytical creativity is dangerous and stresses that, at times, intuition and theory are needed to get out of economic ruts and to keep up with the pace of technological change in our globally integrated world.
Is China, after a hiatus of 150 years, again the largest economy in the world? Not all sources of GDP data agree, but there is little doubt that China is either already now the largest economy, or it will, within a year, become so by overtaking that of the United States. Whichever the case may be, a long era when the American economy was the largest in the world and which began around 1860, is now reaching its end.
Data on gross domestic product (called now Gross Domestic Income) are available from three sources: the Maddison project, which is the only source for the long-run series of national GDPs, going back to 1820s; the World Bank or IMF annual data, going back to 1960; and Penn World Tables, produced periodically at the University of Pennsylvania, going back from their just-released version 8.0 to 1950 . All three sources produce GDP data in PPP (purchasing power parity) terms, which means that they adjust for differences in price levels between the countries. The easiest way to explain it is to say that PPPs try to account for each good and service using the same price for it around the world, so that a mobile phone, a kilo of rice and a haircut would each be valued the same in China as in the United States. Only thus can the real sizes of the economies, and the welfare of people, be truly comparable. These PPP data, in turn, are obtained through a massive worldwide project called the International Comparison Program, which is run every five to 10 years and collects more than 1,000 prices in all countries.
As Kaushik Basu said yesterday, downside risks to the global economy have diminished, market conditions look better, borrowing costs in advanced economies are down from worrying levels seen last June, and developing country growth is still in the 5 percent range. Yet this improvement is transmitting to the real side very minimally.
That was just one of the takeaways from Global Economic Prospects 2013, launched January 15. A new-look global outlook site allows users to access a wealth of analysis, forecasts and data for the world’s economies.