Global and regional outlook

World Economic Situation and Prospects

The World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) is a joint product of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five United Nations regional commissions. One of its purposes is to serve as a point of reference for discussions on economic, social and related issues taking place in various United Nations entities during the year. The report has been published since 1948, originally as the World Economic Report.

In recent years, but also in earlier editions, WESP has warned against the dangers of the unsustainable pattern of global growth that emerged about a decade ago and which was characterized by strong consumer demand in the United States, funded by easy credit and booming house prices. Far-reaching financial deregulation facilitated a massive and unfettered expansion of new financial instruments.

This pattern of growth enabled strong growth in global trade growth and, eventually, high commodity prices benefiting many developing countries, but also led to mounting global financial imbalances and overleveraged financial institutions, businesses and households. In the context of a highly integrated global economy without adequate regulation and global governance structures, the breakdown in one part of the system thus easily leads to failure elsewhere, as we are witnessing today.

The WESP detected the core causes of the present crisis early on. It also sustained, on the same grounds, that the problems in the US housing and financial markets could easily spread around the world and severely affect economic and social progress in developing countries, even if many of these were not directly exposed to the risk of sub-prime lending and the related derivatives markets.

The hypothesis, sustained by many analysts, including at the Bretton Woods institutions, that developing country growth had somehow have become “decoupled” from growth in developed economies was always rejected by WESP. We know now for a fact how misguided this hypothesis was, and how it unfortunately caused many developing countries to be taken by surprise by the consequences of the financial crisis after it intensified in September 2008, despite all warning signals.

WESP Monthly Briefings

The Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects highlights global issues that are currently of particular importance for macroeconomic and social trends at the regional and global level. During the course of the crisis, these briefings have become an important and effective tool in keeping track of the fast-changing macroeconomic conditions in the world economy. Until April 2009, seven monthly briefings have been issued.

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. Until April 2009, 14 policy briefs have been issued on various topics, including on the trillion dollar plan, the globally coordinated fiscal stimulus and on the financial meltdown.

Project LINK

Project Link integrates independently developed national econometric models into a global model as a co-operative, non-governmental, international research activity. The Department generates crucial input for its macroeconomic reports from this project.

The project provides a consistent framework for undertaking quantitative studies of the international economic transmission mechanisms and of the effects of international and national policies, developments and disturbances on the outlook for the world economy, and global economic integration in general.