LAGUNA BEACH – In the coming year, “divergence” will be a major global economic theme, applying to economic trends, policies, and performance. As the year progresses, these divergences will become increasingly difficult to reconcile, leaving policymakers with a choice: overcome the obstacles that have so far impeded effective action, or risk allowing their economies to be destabilized.
The multi-speed global economy will be dominated by four groups of countries. The first, led by the United States, will experience continued improvement in economic performance. Their labor markets will become stronger, with job creation accompanied by wage recovery. The benefits of economic growth will be less unequally distributed than in the past few years, though they will still accrue disproportionately to those who are already better off.
The second group, led by China, will stabilize at lower growth rates than recent historical averages, while continuing to mature structurally. They will gradually reorient their growth models to make them more sustainable – an effort that occasional bouts of global financial-market instability will shake, but not derail. And they will work to deepen their internal markets, improve regulatory frameworks, empower the private sector, and expand the scope of market-based economic management.
The third group, led by Europe, will struggle, as continued economic stagnation fuels social and political disenchantment in some countries and complicates regional policy decisions. Anemic growth, deflationary forces, and pockets of excessive indebtedness will hamper investment, tilting the balance of risk to the downside. In the most challenged economies, unemployment, particularly among young people, will remain alarmingly high and persistent.