The global economy is climbing out from the depths to which it had plummeted during the Great Lockdown in April. But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread, many countries have slowed reopening and some are reinstating partial lockdowns to protect susceptible populations. While recovery in China has been faster than expected, the global economy’s long ascent back to pre-pandemic levels of activity remains prone to setbacks.
Sub-Saharan Africa is struggling to navigate an unprecedented health and economic crisis—one that, in just a few months, has jeopardized decades of hard-won development gains and upended the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Global growth for 2018–19 is projected to remain steady at its 2017 level, but its pace is less vigorous than projected in April and it has become less balanced. Downside risks to global growth have risen in the past six months and the potential for upside surprises has receded.
Global growth is projected at 3.7 percent for 2018–19—0.2 percentage point lower for both years than forecast in April. The downward revision reflects surprises that suppressed activity in early 2018 in some major advanced economies, the negative effects of the
trade measures implemented or approved between April and mid-September, as well as a weaker outlook for some key emerging market and developing economies arising from country-specific factors, tighter financial conditions, geopolitical tensions, and higher oil import bills.
The balance of risks to the global growth forecast has shifted to the downside in a context of elevated policy uncertainty. Several of the downside risks highlighted in the April 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO)—such as rising trade barriers and a reversal of capital flows to emerging market economies with weaker fundamentals and higher political risk—have become more pronounced or have partially materialized. Meanwhile, the potential
for upside surprises has receded, given the tightening of financial conditions in some parts of the world, higher trade costs, slow implementation of reforms recommended in the past, and waning growth momentum.
The macroeconomic outlook for sub-Saharan Africa
continues to strengthen with higher growth, easing inflation, and stabilizing public debt ratios
with some countries improving their fiscal balances. But there are concerns on the quality of the
fiscal adjustment and underlying vulnerabilities have yet to be decisively addressed.
The global upswing in economic activity is strengthening. Global growth, which in 2016 was the weakest since the global financial crisis at 3.2 percent, is projected to rise to 3.6 percent in 2017 and to 3.7 percent in 2018. The growth forecasts for both 2017 and 2018 are 0.1 percentage point stronger compared with projections earlier this year. Broad-based upward revisions in the euro area, Japan, emerging Asia, emerging Europe, and Russia—where growth outcomes in the first half of 2017 were better than expected—more than offset downward revisions for the United States and the United Kingdom.
But the recovery is not complete: while the baseline outlook is strengthening, growth remains weak in many countries, and inflation is below target in most advanced economies. Commodity exporters, especially of fuel, are particularly hard hit as their adjustment to a sharp step down in foreign earnings continues. And while short-term risks are broadly balanced, medium-term risks are still tilted to the downside. The welcome cyclical pickup
in global activity thus provides an ideal window of opportunity to tackle the key policy challenges—namely to boost potential output while ensuring its benefits are broadly shared, and to build resilience against downside risks. A renewed multilateral effort is also needed to tackle the common challenges of an integrated global economy.