Economic Growth

How to accelerate and strengthen the global economy

Global Economy: World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende attends a news conference in Cologny, near Geneva, Switzerland January 16, 2018.

The World Economic Forum's President Borge Brende argues that the world needs an equitable, sustainable and resilient post-pandemic global economy. Image: REUTERS

Børge Brende
President, World Economic Forum
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Economic Progress

  • Inflation, economic slowdown present threats to the global economy
  • But there exists an opportunity now to lay the foundations of a resilient and sustainable world economy
  • World Economic Forum President Børge Brende says global cooperation is key to realizing this vision

At a moment when the global economy faces strong headwinds, there is an opportunity for leaders to not only accelerate growth in the near term, but to lay the foundations of a more resilient and sustainable economy for the years ahead.

It is no secret we are in a challenging economic context. In January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released projections indicating that global growth is expected to slow from 5.9 percent last year to 4.4 percent in 2022. This is half a percentage point lower than what had been forecast in October.

Alongside this deceleration, many economists believe persistent inflation will partially erase economic gains, with the expectation of rising interest rates slowing investment. On top of this, 60 percent of low-income countries are in debt distress or at risk of debt distress, according to the IMF.

These are no doubt great challenges, but there are also possibilities ahead.

If leaders not only put in place policies to revitalize economies, but also address shared priorities in the near, medium, and long terms, there is a chance to fuel confidence and build resilience — key ingredients for economic health now and in the future.

Inclusive growth

Most immediately, we must ensure global growth is more inclusive. Many advanced economies have promising forecasts, such as China which saw its exports jump by over $675 billion last year — a 26 percent increase on the year before. But there remains the risk that recovery will take years in most emerging and developing economies. If left unaddressed, this divergence will foster not just dire global economic consequences, but humanitarian ones too.

One way to advance a more equitable recovery is by committing to delivering sustainable investment to underfinanced economies.

Here, thankfully, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is finally showing signs of health, as global flows of finance were up 77 percent in 2021, surpassing their pre-COVID-19 level. Indeed, China experienced a record $179 billion of investment flowing into the country, amounting to a 20 percent year-over-year increase. Yet, global FDI is still fragile, as factors like new COVID-19 variants and rising energy prices can create obstacles to capital flows.

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Digital transformation

In the medium term, we need to empower digital transformation, because the global economy is undergoing rapid technological advancement and expansion — which the World Economic Forum has termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The coming five to ten years will require each and every company to ensure technology and innovation are part of its DNA. Indeed, an estimated 70 percent of new value over this decade will be based on business models that rely on digital applications. The recent shortage in semiconductors, and the resulting focus in the United States, European Union, and China on manufacturing chips, is just one indication of the rapid digital transformation taking place.

The digitization of the global economy is why China’s 14th Five Year Plan has called for the “core industries of the digital economy” to account for 10 percent of the country’s GDP by 2025, up from 7.8 percent in 2020.

Yet, despite the growing importance of digital, ​​​​an estimated 2.9 billion people — over a third of the global population — have never used the Internet. This is why last year the World Economic Forum brought together leading technology and financial companies, along with government entities, to launch the EDISON Alliance, which is working to foster affordable digital access for everyone by 2025.

Green transition

Over the longer term, we must commit to going green because climate change is the most important challenge of our lifetime.

By some estimates, the global economy could face unprecedented consequences, potentially shrinking by up to 18 percent in the next 30 years, if decarbonization efforts are not taken. This does not include the devastation that our planet would face in terms of biodiversity loss and loss of human life.

Reaching net zero climate emissions by 2050 will require fundamentally transforming our economy, as companies and countries change their energy mixes, increase efficiencies, and invest in new zero-carbon solutions. But a green transition can add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to the global economy. The First Movers Coalition — a group of 30 leading companies that was launched at COP26 by the World Economic Forum and US Climate Envoy John Kerry — is helping deliver a green economy by boosting demand signals for new low-carbon technologies.

All our priorities — a more equitable, digital, and green global economy — rely on greater global cooperation because they are too large, too complex, and too interconnected for one company or country to address on its own. This is why we must move away from a zero-sum mindset, in which global actors believe prosperity can only come at the expense of others. As China’s President Xi Jinping said at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda in January: “The right way forward for humanity is peaceful development and win-win cooperation.”

This article was originally published on CGTN.

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