By Mike Caggeso
The World Bank estimates that the global economy will likely shrink for the first time since World War II – at least five percentage points below potential – and emerging markets will suffer the hardest hits with severe long-term implications.
In its latest report, "Swimming Against the Tide: How Developing Countries are Coping with the Global Crisis," the World Bank says that 94 out of 116 developing countries have experienced a slowdown in economic growth. Of those, 43 have high levels of poverty.
And the most affected sectors are those that were the most dynamic not too long ago: Urban-based exporters, construction, mining and manufacturing – the result of shrinking global trade that's on track to record its largest annual decline in 80 years.
Developing countries are facing a $270 billion to $700 billion financial shortfall. But the biggest private sector creditors are seeing the biggest loan demand for high-income countries, choking their ability to loan to emerging markets. And the emerging economies that can secure loans will face higher borrowing costs and lower capital flows, leading to weaker investment and slower growth in the future, the World Bank said.
"When this crisis began, people in developing countries, especially those in Africa, were the innocent bystanders in this crisis, yet they have no choice but to bear its harsh consequences," World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in the report. "We must look at poor people as assets and not liabilities. The new globalization should mean we adopt new ways of caring for our infants, educating our youth, empowering our women and protecting the vulnerable."
All totaled, only one quarter of the most vulnerable countries have the ability to finance measures to economic downturn – such as job creation and safety programs. The rest will likely see already drastic poverty worsen, the bank said.
"We need to react in real time to a growing crisis that is hurting people in developing countries," said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. "This global crisis needs a global solution and preventing an economic catastrophe in developing countries is important for global efforts to overcome this crisis. We need investments in safety nets, infrastructure, and small and medium size companies to create jobs and to avoid social and political unrest."
The best way to ease the damage, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President Justin Yifu Lin says, would be for developed countries to spend a portion of their stimulus plans on developing countries.
"Clearly, fiscal resources do have to be injected in rich countries that are at the epicenter of the crisis, but channeling infrastructure investment to the developing world where it can release bottlenecks to growth and quickly restore demand can have an even bigger bang for the buck and should be a key element to recovery," Lin said.
The World Bank's report will be presented at Saturday's meeting of the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors.
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