Accelerating a Robust Recovery to Create Productive Jobs and Support Inclusive Growth
Attilio Di Battista
Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz
World Economic Forum
This new edition of The Global Competitiveness Report is launched at a time when the world seems to be finally emerging from the worst financial and economic crisis of the past 80 years and returning to a pre-crisis situation: large interest rate spreads for public debt in hard-hit countries are falling; banking systems seem more robust, even if financial reform has not yet been completed; and access to credit, while still limited, is slowly recovering.
Overall, growth prospects in advanced economies are better than they have been in recent years, albeit very unevenly distributed. The recovery in the United States seems to be comfortably grounded with strong output and employment figures. Japan’s economy, while still needing to translate Abenomics into stronger private demand, seems to be waking up after two decades of stagnation. In Europe the picture is more mixed, with many countries now recording stronger growth and returning to trend growth rates, while some others continue to suffer from weak growth driven by protracted internal demand, high unemployment, and financial fragmentation. Emerging economies are forecasted to grow more modestly than they did in the past. After several years of doing very well and leading global growth, their performance may be affected by a changing environment characterized by greater difficulty accessing capital as well as lower prices for the commodities that fueled past growth—a trend that is also likely to affect many developing economies.
To a large extent, the improvement of the global economic outlook has been the result of bold monetary policies carried out by the Federal Reserve and Central Banks in countries such as the United Kingdom and Japan to substantially expand the amount of money available in the economy. As the economic situation improves, a normalisation of monetary policy with a tightening of the financial conditions for both advanced and, most notably, emerging economies could jeopardize the rather positive forecast, especially if productivity-enhancing investment levels do not manage to pick up. Investment and the recovery more broadly will also be influenced by the fact that low inflation, or even deflation, in key advanced economies remains a tangible risk that could derail recovery because real interest rates may rise, increasing the burden of public debt and leading to a stagnation of consumption and investment rates.
In addition, in recent months, a strained geopolitical situation has emerged. Tensions in Ukraine with implications for the relationship between Russia and much of the Western world, as well as between China and Japan, have become more evident. Although the implications of these tensions have not yet fully materialized, they could cause a great deal of disruption in the highly interdependent, global macroeconomic outlook. Finally, one of the legacies of the economic crisis is the acceleration of income inequality in many countries, which can cause important economic and social tensions if not properly addressed.
Against this backdrop, it is clear that this is no time to be complacent. The risks to the global economic outlook remain very real. Past measures, mainly based on expansionary monetary policies, have helped to temporarily avoid a deeper recession and set the foundations for the global recovery in the short term. However, ensuring sustained growth in the long run will depend not on monetary policies, but on boosting the level of productivity of economies. In order to achieve higher levels of productivity, new actions in terms of engaging in much-needed structural reform and productivity-enhancing investments are required. These measures are not only important, as they have always been, but they are also becoming urgent if we are to solidify and accelerate the recovery to create new opportunities and new jobs for larger segments of the population.
For more than three decades, the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Report has studied and benchmarked the many factors underpinning national competitiveness. From the onset, the goal has been to provide insight and stimulate discussion among all stakeholders about the best strategies and policies to help countries to overcome the obstacles to improving competitiveness. In the current economic context, this work is a critical reminder of the importance of sound structural economic fundamentals for sustained growth.
Since 2005, the World Economic Forum has based its competitiveness analysis on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), a comprehensive tool that measures the microeconomic and macroeconomic foundations of national competitiveness.1 Recognizing that competitiveness may also be analyzed at other geographical levels, the Forum—through its Global Agenda Council on Competitiveness—has engaged in a parallel strand of work to analyze the drivers of competitiveness at the level of the city. Box 1 presents some of the main conclusions of this work.
In addition, in order to better place the discussion of competitiveness into a societal and environmental context, the Forum has begun exploring the complex relationship between competitiveness and sustainability as measured by its social and environmental dimension. The work carried out to date on these important aspects of human and economic development is described in Chapter 1.2 of this Report.
The final objective of the Forum’s work in this area is to inform a series of structured multi-stakeholder dialogues that can raise awareness and rally support geared toward the transformation of countries, regions, or cities to assist them to become more competitive, offer enhanced opportunities, and raise prosperity.