Mr. Liu Zhenmin Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Opening Statement
Launch of World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to present this year’s World Economic Situation and Prospects – or WESP. This year’s volume stands apart from recent editions both in terms of the overall assessment of the world economy, and the risks and challenges highlighted in the Report.

The WESP benefits from the collective expertise of economists across the UN system, including UN DESA, UNCTAD and the five regional economic commissions of the United Nations, plus bodies such as the World Tourism Organization and the International Labour Organization. Our economists take a bottom-up approach in accessing the World economy. They look at individual countries and pull together these individual parts into a complete picture of the world economy. Policy makers can then draw conclusions from this analytical work and incorporate relevant elements into their decision-making.

The general economic backdrop conveyed in the Report is more positive compared to recent years: the global economy is growing by 3 per cent, the highest growth rate since 2011. About two thirds of all countries are seeing stronger growth this year compared to last year; and steady global growth of 3 per cent is forecast to continue next year and beyond.

Of course, as encouraging as this is, significant problems remain that have wider social or environmental relevance.

First, if we look at economic growth on a per-capita basis, numerous countries and regions are seeing only very modest or stagnating growth. This explains that it is difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, be it the objective to reduce poverty or to increase social inclusion, or redress environmental damage.

Second, there is an environmental dimension to growth itself. Estimates suggest that global CO2 emissions have started to increase again in 2017, confronting the world community with a problematic message: while the upturn in global growth is a welcome sign of a healthier economy, it is important to remember that this may come at an environmental cost. This calls for stronger efforts to delink economic growth from environmental degradation – as also emphasized by the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last month.

Then there is the continued challenge of creating decent jobs. While unemployment has declined in many countries, deeper labour market challenges remain, including high levels of underemployment, youth unemployment and vulnerable forms of employment.

With the more positive macroeconomic forecast and these problems in mind, the Report presents a compelling argument: policy makers should use the current improvement in macroeconomic conditions to accelerate progress on fundamental development challenges.

These include:

  • increasing the degree of economic diversification, especially in resource-reliant economies;
  • reducing inequality, especially to lift people out of poverty;
  • creating a global financial architecture that supports long-term investment needs; and
  • building institutions that allow effective policy-making.

Addressing these more fundamental issues has been difficult during a time of economic crisis. Over the last decade, various economic and financial crises largely crowded out efforts to implement policy measures with a longer-term time horizon in mind. But grasping the opportunity now to bring about deeper and more fundamental change is urgently needed for sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth over the medium-term.

Thank you very much.

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