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“The world economy has experienced another year of subdued growth in 2013,” said Pingfan Hong, Acting Director of DESA’s Development Policy and Analysis Division, as the Global Economic Outlook for 2014 was revealed on 18 December 2013. Mr. Hong pointed to continued challenges, but he also shared some new positive trends including improvements in the Euro area and strengthened growth in the US.

“Most developed economies have continued struggling on a bumpy road of recovery grappling with the challenges of taking the right policies,” Mr. Hong said, as the first chapter of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2014: The global economic outlook was released on 18 December. Together with UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development Shamshad Akhtar, Mr. Hong shared the latest trends and forecast for the global economy.

While highlighting some of the remaining challenges, both Ms. Akhtar and Mr. Hong said that recent improvements have been observed. “The outlook for coming years, barring any further disruption, is set to improve, driven in part by increased demand in developed countries,” said Ms. Akhtar.

“The Euro area has finally come out of a protracted recession,” Mr. Hong said, also pointing to strengthened growth in the US, as well as to the effects of expansionary policies in Japan. “A few large economies including China and India, have managed to backstop the slowdown experienced over the past two years and started to veer upwards albeit only moderately,” he added.

The report reveals that the global economy is expected to grow at a pace of 3.0 per cent in 2014 and 3.3 per cent in 2015, compared with an estimated growth of 2.1 per cent for 2013.

Inflation will remain tame, but the employment situation will continue to be challenging. While growth in international trade flows is expected to pick up moderately to 4.7 per cent in 2014, the prices of most primary commodities are projected to be flat. The report warns that international capital flows to emerging economies are expected to become more volatile.

“Our forecast is made in the context of many uncertainties and risks coming from possible policy missteps as well as non economic factors that could stymie growth,” said Ms. Akhtar.

The report predicts that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States is expected to increase 2.5 per cent in 2014. Western Europe has emerged from recession in 2013, but growth prospects remain weak, as fiscal austerity will continue and the unemployment rates remain elevated. GDP in Western Europe is expected to grow by 1.4 per cent in 2014. In Japan, GDP is forecast to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2014.

Growth in Brazil has been hampered by weak external demand, volatility in international capital flows and tightening monetary policy, but is expected to rebound to 3 per cent in 2014. A slowdown in China has been stabilized and growth is expected to maintain at a pace of about 7.5 per cent in the next few years. India experienced its lowest growth in two decades, along with large current account and government budget deficits plus high inflation, but growth is forecast to improve to above 5 per cent in 2014. In the Russian Federation growth weakened further in 2013, as industrial output and investment faltered, and is expected to recover modestly to 2.9 per cent in 2014.

Growth prospects in Africa remain relatively robust. After an estimated growth of 4.0 per cent in 2013, GDP is projected to expand by 4.7 per cent in 2014. The report emphasized the dependence of Africa’s growth on investment in infrastructure, trade and investment ties with emerging economies, and improvements in economic governance and management.

More detailed regional forecasts from WESP will be released in January 2014.

Mr. Hong highlighted some of the main hazards during the forecasted period. “This could trigger significant shock to financial markets and the global economy. Some emerging economies are particularly vulnerable to such a shock and could be pushed into a hard landing,” Mr. Hong added. on the debt ceiling and budget. Beyond the economic domain, geopolitical tensions in Western Asia and elsewhere remain serious risks. These and other risk factors, unfolding unexpectedly,
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could derail the world economy far beyond the report’s projections.

“Facing this and other challenges, policies worldwide should focus more on the recovery of jobs,” Mr. Hong said. “We must also increase attention to reducing the spillover effects coming from the large scale, unconventional monetary policies adopted by major developed countries on developing countries and economies in transition, particularly when major developed countries start to unwind these policies,” he added.

International policy cooperation and coordination are also needed to advance the reforms of the international financial system. Progress in financial regulatory reform has been slow, encountering growing resistance from the financial industry. The report adds that more forceful efforts are needed to address the issues of international tax avoidance and evasion, particularly through tax havens.

“We also reiterate the call for the international cooperation to ensure sufficient resources to the least developed countries,” concluded Mr. Hong.

WESP is produced at the beginning of each year by UN DESA, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five United Nations regional commissions. The full version of the report will be available 20 January 2014.

For almost as long as the UN has existed, development data has been collected, generating a crucial asset for the international community. Behind this important effort is UN DESA Statistics Division, led by Stefan Schweinfest. In DESA News, he shares what it takes to measure an ever changing world and to prepare for development beyond 2015.

is one of those quiet areas where the United Nations is actually working very, very well, says Stefan Schweinfest, as he speaks with DESA News. have a lot to be proud of. I think we have collected billions and billions of development data here [.] over the last 67 68 years, and this is a real treasure, he adds.

With 24 years of experience working with statistics for the UN, Mr. Schweinfest has covered many different areas including national and environmental accounting, statistical capacity building programmes and indicator frameworks. Since 2002, he has served as the main coordinator of the Statistical Commission and he has also been one of the leading forces in the establishment of the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management. On 1 April 2013, Stefan Schweinfest was appointed Acting Director of UN DESA Statistics Division.

Tracking progress of Millennium Development Goals

For the past 13 years, one of the key activities of the division has been to monitor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000, and to prepare the statistical annex for the annual MDG report of the Secretary General.

MDGs have been good for statistics. They have highlighted the need of solid and good information for policy and decision making MDGs have been good for statistics. They have highlighted the need of solid and good information for policy and decision making, says Stefan Schweinfest. He also talks warmly about the cooperation with the inter agency expert group, that brings together best statisticians [.] and the best statistics of the entire UN System and how their collaborative efforts result in the annual MDG report.

definitely [.] have much more information today and better information today than we had 15 years ago or 13 years ago. But we should also bear in mind that there are still about 1/3 of the countries that have difficulties producing about half of the indicators, Mr. Schweinfest adds, underlining that there is still extensive work to be done.

Statisticians need to be involved from start

When speaking about the new post 2015 development agenda that is being developed, Stefan Schweinfest underscores the need to have statisticians onboard from the start. of the lessons learned from the last round was that statisticians need to be involved in the process from the very beginning, he says.

Mr. Schweinfest points to the Friends of the Chair Group, which the Statistical Commission created this year and which brings together about 20 very dedicated countries and their chief statisticians. The Statistics Division is working closely with them to develop broader measures of progress needed in the context of the sustainable development agenda and to also ensure that a solid measuring framework is part of the new development agenda.

are not taking pictures, we are making a movie Schweinfest also talks about the request for a data revolution, which was put forward in the report released earlier this year by the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, entitled New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development am very pleased with that type of attention given to my professional area and I understand this to mean that we will have to make a massive concerted effort to help countries to strengthen national statistical systems, he says. His team is now working to enhance partnerships both within and outside the UN System in order to be able to support countries around the world. A new cooperation agreement on statistics has been signed recently with the World Bank,
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the International Development Banks and the IMF.