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The Global Economy’s Luck May Run Out

Compared to this time last year, the prospects for markets and the global economy heading into 2020 are surprisingly bright. But look further ahead and you will encounter deep uncertainty, suggesting that policymakers around the world would do well to implement inclusive-growth policies sooner rather than later.

ABU DHABI – This being December, my natural inclination is to review the past year’s economic and financial developments to help policymakers and investors anticipate what might be coming in 2020. This year is ending on a relatively positive note, especially when compared to the same time last year. There is hope of a global growth pickup, trade tensions have lessened, and central banks have reaffirmed that that they will maintain ultra-low interest rates and continue to provide ample liquidity. Financial volatility is subdued, and there are reasonable expectations of solid investor returns across many asset classes.

As tempting as it is to dwell on current financial and macroeconomic conditions, doing so risks obfuscating a key element in the outlook for the future. There is a curious contrast between the relative clarity of expectations for the near term and the murkiness and uncertainty that comes when one extends the horizon further – say, to the next five years.

Many countries are facing structural uncertainties that could have far-reaching, systemic implications for markets and the global economy. For example, over the next five years, the European Union will seek to establish a new working relationship with the United Kingdom, while also dealing with the harmful social and political effects of slow, insufficiently inclusive growth. The EU will have to navigate the perils of a prolonged period of negative interest rates, while also shoring up its economic and financial core. As long as the eurozone’s architecture is incomplete, consistent risks of instability will remain.

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