Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 1 February 2010
Be wary about hype on “global recovery”
Three eminent economic experts last week warned developing countries to be cautious of the
current talk of a global economic recovery and instead to prepare policy options for a changed and more difficult world
Developing countries should be cautious about the current hype about a global economic recovery and instead prepare policy options in a world where they have to rely less on exports for future growth.
This sombre assessment came from three eminent economic experts who warned that the world economy is not out of the woods yet. More than a hundred developing countries have not begun to share in the recovery proclaimed by the media.
Dr. Yilmaz Akyuz, special economic advisor of the South Centre, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and Professor Deepak Nayyar, former Vice Chancellor of Dehli University, were speaking at a workshop organised by the South Centre on 28 January.
Held at the United Nations building in
Akyuz, who is also a former Chief Economist at UNCTAD, said there is consensus that recovery has started, with positive growth expected in all major economies this year. But there are problems ahead. The crisis intervention policies in developed countries, based on increased government spending and monetary expansion, are creating another bubble, with financial institutions out of touch with the real economy again.
As policy makers recognise the risks of the new bubble, there are signs of an “early exit” from the stimulus plans, such as the end of interest rate cuts and phasing out of additional spending.
As the effects of the stimulus packages fade away, economic activity may either lose momentum or even turn down, warned Akyuz. And if the stimulus policy is reversed too soon, there could be a new and deep economic dip.
The consequences of the
Developing countries that are export-dependent
may thus hope that their exports to
However, according to Akyuz, much of the imports
The other two major economies,
Akyuz also predicted a rise in protectionism and a backlash against globalisation, both in the developed countries. Developing countries will thus have to prepare for testing times ahead..
Dr. Supachai warned the developing countries not to be misled about the talk about an “early recovery.” In his estimate, more than 100 developing countries are still in recession. The stimulus plans of developed countries cannot be sustained because they cannot raise more of the huge funds already used.
The UNCTAD chief added that the recovery is only partial, taking place in some sectors (the stock market and real estate), and there is still to be the unwinding and de-leveraging from household and corporate debt. After a recession, it takes 3 to 5 years for the unwinding, but as this is a Great Recession, the time needed would be 5 to 7 years, he predicted.
UNCTAD data showed a 39% drop in foreign direct investment last year, with more than a 50% drop in some developing countries. There is no robust FDI rebound anticipated this year. Supachai also painted a bleak picture on trade, whose volume fell by 15 percent last year and is expected to rebound by only 5% this year.
The data show that we are in a delicate period, which Supachai called a “post cardiac arrest” situation. “We have not been successful in getting the global economy out of recession yet, and we should not fall into a business as usual mode which is being promoted by big bankers and those they try to influence,” he said.
Supachai proposed an expansion of South-South cooperation, with developing countries increasing trade among one another and pooling their financial resources, including in new regional monetary funds.
The fluctuations in commodity prices should be addressed, and global economic governance should be reformed. The financial system should also be changed, so that banks be confined to doing narrow banking business (collecting savings to lend out) and not anything more fanciful.
Prof. Deepak Nayyar agreed with Akyuz that
The crisis should induce a rethinking of development, said Deepak. There should be a reform in orthodox macro-economic policy thinking which should not focus only on inflation control, and there should be caution in financial liberalisation.
Developing countries should also re-think their relative reliance on external and internal markets and financial resources. Domestic markets are critical and external markets cannot be substitutes. It is also time to recognise the pro-active role of a developmental state, including in implementing industrial and technology policy.
At the international level, there must be coordination of policies of countries. Fortunately, developing countries are becoming more important in output, trade and the holding of foreign reserves. They can thus have a greater say, but if they organise themselves better.
The conclusion from the workshop speakers was that developing countries should draw their own lessons from the global crisis, not to be complacent about the “recovery”, and re-think development strategies and policy options, as well as be advocates of international financial reform.
As Supachai said, the chance to reform the financial system after the Asian crisis in 1997-98 was missed and another bigger crisis has now hit the world. We may miss the boat again, unless something is done now.