What might the world economy look like in 2030? Nobody knows. But we can consider where present trends are taking us. We can assess, too, some of the dangers and opportunities. That is what the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report does*. This report does more than help organise our thinking. It should also cheer us up and spur us to do better.
The past quarter of a century has been a time of unprecedented integration of the world economy, as technology advanced and the socialist sandcastles crumbled under the tide of economic liberalisation. As the report also notes: “Global income has doubled since 1980, 450m have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990 and life expectancy in developing countries is now 65 on average.”
Globalisation has also proceeded apace: between 1970 and 2004, exports as a proportion of world output doubled to more than 25 per cent; new technologies have diffused rapidly across the globe; and total private financing of developing countries reached nearly $1,000bn in 2004. The persistence of these trends is striking. Moreover, among the encouraging recent features is the acceleration in the growth of incomes per head in the developing world (see chart), as south Asian growth rates and east Asian weights in the total both rose.
So what might the world look like in 2030?