Developing Countries and the Global Crisis

NEW YORK – This year is likely to be the worst for the global economy since World War II, with the World Bank estimating a decline of up to 2%. Even developing countries that did everything right – and had far better macroeconomic and regulatory policies than the United States did – are feeling the impact. Largely as a result of a precipitous fall in exports, China is likely to continue to grow, but at a much slower pace than the 11-12% annual growth of recent years. Unless something is done, the crisis will throw as many as 200 million additional people into poverty.

This global crisis requires a global response, but, unfortunately, responsibility for responding remains at the national level. Each country will try to design its stimulus package to maximize the impact on its own citizens – not the global impact. In assessing the size of the stimulus, countries will balance the cost to their own budgets with the benefits in terms of increased growth and employment for their own economies. Since some of the benefit (much of it in the case of small, open economies) will accrue to others, stimulus packages are likely to be smaller and more poorly designed than they otherwise would be, which is why a globally coordinated stimulus package is needed.

This is one of several important messages to emerge from a United Nations Experts Commission on the global economic crisis, which I chair – and which recently submitted its preliminary report to the UN.

The report supports many of the G-20 initiatives, but it urges stronger measures focused on developing countries. For instance, while it is recognized that almost all countries need to undertake stimulus measures (we’re all Keynesians now), many developing countries do not have the resources to do so. Nor do existing international lending institutions.