Rising food and fuel prices are taking the wind out of the global economy’s recovery this year, the World Bank said on Tuesday, cutting its forecast for global growth.
The bank projected said global growth will only be 3.2 percent this year, one-tenth of a point lower than its January estimate and sharply off the 3.8 percent pace of last year.
The Washington-based development lender expected in its biannual Global Economic Prospects report that the world economy would rebound next year.
“But further increases in already high oil and food prices could significantly curb economic growth and hurt the poor,” said Justin Lin (林毅夫), the bank’s chief economist.
High-income countries at the nexus of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis were still struggling to recover. Growth would slow from 2.7 percent last year to 2.2 percent this year, slower than the previous 2.4 percent estimate.
The rich countries “have the largest amount of restructuring to do,” said Andrew Burns, lead author of the report, at a news conference at the bank’s Washington headquarters.
Burns said the US was in “a growth pause,” but a double-dip recession was “not likely” — echoing US President Barack Obama’s statement earlier on Tuesday that he was “not concerned about a double-dip recession.”
The world’s biggest economy was expected to grow a feeble 2.6 percent this year and accelerate to 2.9 percent next year, the bank said.
Japan’s March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster and unrest in the Arab world, while cutting sharply into domestic growth, would make only a modest dent in global growth, the 187-nation institution said.
The recovery in Europe continues to face “substantial headwinds” from uncertainty about debt crises in several eurozone members. The 17-nation eurozone is expected to expand at last year’s pace of 1.7 percent this year, with growth only edging up to 1.8 percent next year.
By contrast, developing countries relatively sailed through the global downturn, providing the impetus for the global recovery.
However, at the same time their robust growth was creating the demand for commodities that has spurred prices higher.
“Most developing countries have returned to their precrisis levels of production,” Lin said at the news conference. “Now they have to shift their macroeconomic policies from countercyclical, inflationary monetary and fiscal policies to a more neutral policy stance.”
As developing countries neared full capacity, collective GDP growth was projected to slow from 7.3 percent last year to about a 6.3 percent pace each year from this year to 2013.
Many were operating above capacity and were at risk of overheating, especially in Asia and Latin America, the bank warned.
Burns called on developing countries to focus on structural reform in order to use their resources efficiently and to change their “mindset” of pursuing “growth at all costs.”
For China, the second-biggest economy and the world’s main growth driver, expansion is projected to slow from last year’s pace of 10.3 percent to 9.3 percent this year and around 8.7 percent in each of next year and 2013, “as the effects of government’s policy tightening take stronger effect.”
Crude oil prices, after averaging about US$79 a barrel last year, were now projected to hit US$107.20 a barrel this year before easing back slightly.
“Oil prices are expected to remain elevated as long as physical supplies are disrupted and fears persist of larger disruptions from political unrest in oil-producing countries,” the bank said in the new report.
Burns said that higher oil prices would underpin rising food prices, particularly pressuring the poor who spend a high proportion of their income on food.
Food production is “actually four times more energy-intensive than manufacturing,” he said.
“The pass-through will continue in 2012” and the consequences for the poor “will be with us for some time,” Burns said.
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