Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Launch of World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017

Good morning,

Thank you for joining us for the launch of the UNDESA flagship publication World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017, also known as WESP.

WESP is a product of collaboration among several UN entities. It is produced jointly by UNDESA, UNCTAD, and the five regional commissions of the United Nations, plus the World Tourism Organization – UNWTO. The report assesses current global economic conditions and prospects, within the context of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Our acknowledgement and thanks to all the colleagues that collaborate with this exercise year after year.

The year 2016 marked the beginning of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I make reference to this, because revitalizing global economic growth is crucial to achieving the goals and targets set out in the 2030 Agenda. However, the world continues to struggle against a prolonged economic slowdown. In 2016, global economic growth slowed to its slowest pace since the Great Recession of 2009 at the level of
2.2 %.

The WESP 2017 projects a modest recovery in global growth for 2017 and 2018, but this is more an indication of economic stabilization than a robust and sustained revival of global demand. Global growth is expected to remain some way below its average rate in the decade before the financial crisis.

According to the report, the prolonged slowdown has been driven by a self-perpetuating cycle of weak investment, slower growth in world trade, a slowdown in productivity growth and high levels of debt. Low commodity prices have also severely impacted many commodity-exporting countries since 2014, while conflict and geopolitical tensions continue to take a heavy toll on economic prospects in several regions.

A return to strong and balanced global growth is not expected soon unless there are extraordinary and concerted policy efforts to stimulate investment and productivity. The report stresses the need to redouble the efforts to bring the global economy back on a stronger growth path and create an international economic environment that is conducive to sustainable development.

Of particular concern are the prospects for the least developed countries. Many of them as we know are in Africa. The average GDP growth in the LDCs remains well below the SDG target of at least 7 per cent per annum.

The report warns that under the current growth trajectory, without a decline in income inequality nearly 35 per cent of the population in LDCs may remain in extreme poverty by 2030. Ending poverty in all its forms in the current economic environment will require countries to tackle inequality issues more rigorously, including commitments to share prosperity both within and across national borders.

The below-target growth also poses a risk to critical public expenditure on healthcare, education, social protection and climate change adaptation. The world has made significant advancements in renewable energy use, especially in developing countries. But concerted policy efforts are needed from both the public and private sectors to ensure that recent gains are not reversed.

Greater efforts are required to mobilize domestic and international resources to help finance much-needed investment, especially in the LDCs. Additional concessional international public financing may be needed to ensure that the LDCs reach the level of investment needed to achieve the ambitious targets set by the SDGs.

In the context of a challenging economic and financial environment, a more balanced policy approach is needed, ensuring that macroeconomic policy measures are fully integrated with structural reforms and policies that target issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change. Deeper international cooperation is needed to expedite clean technology transfer, raise climate finance, strengthen international tax cooperation and address the challenges posed by large movements of refugees and migrants.

The global outlook faces significant uncertainties and risks, including a high degree of uncertainty in the international policy environment. This makes it all the more imperative for countries to follow through on their commitments and step up efforts to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Before passing the floor to Dawn to provide you with more details on the report, I would like to highlight some few additional elements about the historical aspects of the report.

The origins of this annual report can be traced back to 1947. Yes, 70 years ago UNDESA initiated the tradition of producing annual analysis and prospects of the world economy.

Starting February we will share with all of you many details that have characterized the UNDESA contribution to the production of institutional multilateral analysis of the world economy. We are very proud of this particularly because of the impact UNDESA has had over the years on this subject.

Thank you.

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