The report highlights concern about mounting debt and deficits among emerging market and developing economies, raising the prospect that an abrupt rise in interest rates or tougher borrowing conditions might be damaging. At the end of 2016, government debt exceeded its 2007 level by more than 10 percentage points of GDP in more than half of emerging market and developing economies and fiscal balances worsened from their 2007 levels by more than 5 percentage points of GDP in one-third of these countries.
“The reassuring news is that trade is recovering,” said World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer. “The concern is that investment remains weak. In response, we are shifting our priorities for lending toward projects that can spur follow-on investment by the private sector.”
A bright spot in the outlook is a recovery in trade growth to 4 percent after a post-financial crisis low of 2.5 percent last year. The report highlights a key area of weakness in global trade, trade among firms not linked through ownership. Such trade through outsourcing channels has slowed much more sharply than intra-firm trade in recent years. This is a reminder of the importance of a healthy global trading network for the less integrated firms that account for the majority of enterprises.
“After a prolonged slowdown, recent acceleration in activity in some of the largest emerging markets is a welcome development for growth in their regions and for the global economy,” said World Bank Development Economics Prospects Director Ayhan Kose. “Now is the time for emerging market and developing economies to assess their vulnerabilities and strengthen policy buffers against adverse shocks.”