Volume 14, No.1 - January 2010

Publications and websites

Launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2010

The report, to be released worldwide in the third week of January, outlines that the world economic landscape has begun to show signs of improvement. Since the second quarter of 2009, global equity markets have rebounded, risk premiums on lending have fallen and international trade and global industrial production have noticeably recovered. An increasing number of countries are starting to register positive quarterly growth of gross domestic product (GDP).

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A mild growth of 2.4 per cent in the baseline scenario for the global economy in 2010 is expected. In this scenario, the level of the world economic activity will be 7 per cent below where it could have been if pre-crisis growth would have continued. However, unevenness exists noticeably among different economies. China’s and India’s economies are expected to grow at 8.8 and 6.5 per cent respectively in 2010 while in other developing economies, such growths remain well below the pre-crisis pace of more than 7 per cent per annum. Developing countries, especially in Asia, are expected to show the strongest growth in 2010. Meanwhile, the Russian economy is leading the turnaround among economies in transition, expected to grow at 1.5 per cent in 2010 after a severe decline by 7 per cent in 2009.

Compared with developing economies, the major developed economies are not expected to provide a strong pull to global growth in a near future. The United States is expected to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2010, following an estimated downturn of 2.5 per cent in 2009, while the European Union and Japan see a much weaker recovery, with GDP growth of no more than 0.6 and 0.9 per cent respectively.

But the conditions for sustained growth remain fragile. Credit conditions are still tight in major developed economies, many countries are now burdened with high unemployment rates, some are affected by a large output gap, and economists even predict that the possibility of a further spread of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) could hurt economic activity.

  • More information launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects.

Statistical compilations

cover of supplement to the compliers manual

International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Supplement to the Compliers Manual

This supplement covers a number of topics deemed to be beneficial to trade data compilers, including an overview of compiling practices, the revised International convention on the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures (revised Kyoto Convention), the 2007 edition of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, specific compilation issues such as goods for processing and re-exports, an overview of the differences between IMTS and general merchandise in balance of payments statistics, the lessons learned from the Intrastat system of the European Union, and the topic of linking trade and business statistics.

Monthly Bulletin of Statistics and MBS Online

The Monthly Bulletin of Statistics presents current economic and social statistics for more than 200 countries and territories of the world. It contains over 50 tables of monthly and/or annual and quarterly data on a variety of subjects illustrating important economic trends and developments, including population, prices, employment and earnings, energy, manufacturing, transport, construction, international merchandise trade and finance.

Vol. LXIII – No. 11, November 2009

  • Quarterly and bimonthly tables included in this issue:
  • Producer Price Indices
  • Earnings in manufacturing by sex
  • Construction of new buildings
  • Total exports and imports by regions: volume and unit value indices and terms of trade
  • World exports by commodity classes and by regions

Vol. LXIII – No. 12, December 2009

  • Retail price indices relating to living expenditures of United Nations officials
  • Fuel imports, developed economies: unit value and volume indices; value
  • Indicators on fuel imports, developed economies
  • Registration of new motor vehicles
  • External trade conversion factors
  • Manufactured goods exports: unit value indices, volume indices and value
  • Selected series of world statistics

More information on Monthly Bulletin of Statistics and MBS Online.

Outreach material

cover of world contraceptive use 2009

World Contraceptive Use 2009 (Wall Chart)

This wall chart presents the latest data available on key dimensions of reproductive health, including two of the indicators for the Millennium Development Goals, namely, contraceptive prevalence relative to the use of any method and unmet need for family planning. The wall chart shows that universal access to reproductive health is still far from being attained. In at least 40 countries, over 20 per cent of women of reproductive age who are married or in union have an unmet need for contraception. Nevertheless, at the global level contraceptive use continues to increase.

  • Order World Contraceptive Use 2009

Working papers

Growth, Development Policy, Job Creation and Poverty Reduction

Policies seeking to directly help the poor have an important role to play. But without sustained growth in per capita output and significant job creation, they will not succeed. Policies promoting growth have been suggested, most notably by avoiding pro-cyclical responses to macroeconomic shocks (especially from abroad), steering macroeconomic prices, such as exchange and interest rates, to support developmental objectives, pursuing industrial and trade policies involving increasing returns, promoting financial development, and making productive use of foreign aid. Ensuring national economies have sufficient policy space to achieve sustained growth and structural change should be the over-riding policy concern.

Microfinance as a Poverty Reduction Tool—A Critical Assessment

This paper attempts to provide a critical appraisal of the debate on the effectiveness of microfinance as a universal poverty reduction tool. It argues that while microfinance has developed some innovative management and business strategies, its impact on poverty reduction remains in doubt. Microfinance, however, certainly plays an important role in providing safety-net and consumption smoothening. The borrowers of microfinance possibly also benefit from learning-by-doing and from self-esteem. However, for any significant dent on poverty, the focus of public policy should be on growth-oriented and equity-enhancing programs, such as broad-based productive employment creation.

The Terrible Simplifers: Common Origins of Financial Crises and Persistent Poverty in Economic Theory and the new ‘1848 Moment’

One element explaining the financial crisis is what Hyman Minsky called ‘destabilizing stability’: long periods of stability lead to increasing vulnerability. This paper argues that similar mechanisms are at work inside economics: long periods of economic progress in the core countries lead to increasingly abstract and irrelevant economic theories (‘terrible simplifications’). This leads to turning points towards more relevant economic theories, referred to as ‘1848 moments’. The paper further outlines the key variables that need to be re-introduced into economic theory in order to furnish poor countries with the type of productive structures that makes it possible to eliminate poverty.

The Emperor’s New Suit: Global Poverty Estimates Reappraised

The recent revision of the World Bank’s global poverty estimates based on a new $1.25 (2005 PPP) poverty line underlines their unreliability and lack of meaningfulness. It is very difficult to justify various aspects of the Bank’s approach. In the short term, less weight should be given to the Bank’s poverty estimates in monitoring the first MDG. In the longer term, a solution to the observed problems requires adopting an altogether different method. Such an alternative exists but requires global institutional coordination. Until it is implemented, the crisis in the monitoring of global consumption poverty can be expected to intensify. Subsequent versions of this paper, correcting errors or extending the argument, will be made available on

Discussion papers

15th Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects

The December 2009 issue forecasts that the global recovery will continue, with an increasing number of countries reporting rises in output. The recovery, however, is uneven across regions and economic and financial fragilities remain. The global trade is gaining momentum and prospects for commodity exporters have improved. To avoid a double-dip recession, a continued and better coordinated policy support is still needed

UN-DESA Policy Briefs

UN-DESA Policy Briefs feature synopses of key policy analysis intended to frame issues, inform decisions and guide policy action in the economic, social and environmental arena. The following new UN-DESA Policy Briefs are now available:

  • The challenges of adapting to a warmer planet for urban growth and development
  • Ocean Acidification: A Hidden Risk for Sustainable Development

More information on UN-DESA Policy Briefs.


screenshot of new environment statistics website

New Environment Statistics Web Dissemination

DESA’s Statistics Division publishes global environment statistics through two main web-based products: the Environmental Indicators and the Country Snapshots. In 2009, the scope of the Statistics Division online dissemination of environmental indicators was expanded, covering a wider range of environmental themes and data sources. Previously, indicators compiled from the Statistics Division/UNEP Questionnaire on Environment Statistics, supplemented by data from UNFCCC and FAO, were the focus of dissemination on the website.

Since 2009, the Statistics Division now provides a broader set of indicator themes, which makes use of the increasing availability of internationally comparable environmental data compiled by a variety of international organizations. The objective of the Statistics Division’s expanded dissemination of environmental indicators is to provide a global hub for statistics on the environment.

Ten themes have been selected to organize the current set of Environmental Indicators: Air and Climate; Biodiversity; Energy and Minerals; Forests; Governance; Inland Water Resources; Land and Agriculture; Marine and Coastal Areas; Natural Disasters; and Waste. The themes were selected after an extensive review of the availability of environmental statistics with global scope and comparability. Currently, there are 64 downloadable indicator tables organized within the 10 themes.

Country Snapshots, which include many of the indicators from the Environmental Indicators list, in addition to other economic and demographic background information, have also been updated using a new process. Country Snapshots for United Nations member states are now compiled and produced by the Division, using an automated system that allows for improved quality control and more efficient and regular updates.

Special web feature on Gender Equality and Sustainable Urbanisation

screenshot of special web feature on gender equality and sustainable urbanisation

To mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, this new feature provides evidence from a wide variety of United Nations sources on the economic and social costs of gender inequalities in cities. It also draws attention to the positive impact of better governance and targeted interventions to tackle ongoing discrimination in various aspects of urban life.

Commenting on the initiative, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka stressed the importance of incorporating urban dwellers in the fight for gender equality. Currently, 186 countries—over ninety-five per cent of the Members of the United Nations—have ratified the Convention, which is often described as an international bill of rights for women.

New Redesigned Integrated Civil Society Organizations System

screenshot of redesigned iCSO database

This consolidated database of civil society information in economic and social affairs provides online participation and facilitates the application procedure for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Accredited NGOs with ECOSOC can also submit their quadrennial reports and designate representatives to international conferences convened by the United Nations.

Users can search and browse more than 12.000 organizations to find out more about their activities, meeting participation and accreditation status in the areas of sustainable and social development, advancement of women, financing for development, forests and public administration.

  • Browse Redesigned Civil Society Organizations System.