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The Global Economy

The global economy is well-positioned to achieve a sustained period of dynamism through 2015. Global economic growth will return to the high levels reached in the 1960s and early 1970s, the final years of the post-World War II "long boom." Dynamism will be strongest among so-called "emerging markets"—especially in the two Asian giants, China and India—but will be broadly based worldwide, including in both industrialized and many developing countries. The rising tide of the global economy will create many economic winners, but it will not lift all boats. The information revolution will make the persistence of poverty more visible, and regional differences will remain large.

Dynamism and Growth
Five factors will combine to promote widespread economic dynamism and growth:

Political pressures for higher living standards. The growing global middle class—now 2 billion strong—is creating a cycle of rising aspirations, with increased information flows and the spread of democracy giving political clout to formerly disenfranchised citizens.

Improved macroeconomic policies. The widespread improvement in recent years in economic policy and management sets the stage for future dynamism. Inflation rates have been dramatically lowered across a wide range of economies. The abandonment of unsustainable fixed exchange rate regimes in Asia and the creation of the European Monetary Union (EMU) will contribute to economic growth.

Rising trade and investment. International trade and investment flows will grow, spurring rapid increases in world GDP. Opposition to further trade liberalization from special interest groups and some governments will not erode the basic trend toward expansion of trade. International capital flows, which have risen dramatically in the past decade, will remain plentiful, especially for emerging market countries that increase their transparency.

Regional GDP: 1970-2015

Diffusion of information technology. The pervasive incorporation of information technologies will continue to produce significant efficiency gains in the US economy. Similar gains will be witnessed—albeit in varying degrees—in numerous other countries as the integration of these technologies proceeds. But the absorption of IT and its benefits will not be automatic because many countries will fail to meet the conditions needed for effective IT utilization—high educational levels, adequate infrastructure, and appropriate regulatory policies.

Increasingly dynamic private sectors. Rapid expansion of the private sector in many emerging market countries—along with deregulation and privatization in Europe and Japan—will spur economic growth by generating competitive pressures to use resources more efficiently. The impact of improved efficiencies will be multiplied as the information revolution enhances the ability of firms around the world to learn "best practices" from the most successful enterprises. Indeed, the world may be on the verge of a rapid convergence in market-based financial and business practices.

Unequal Growth Prospects and Distribution
The countries and regions most at risk of falling behind economically are those with endemic internal and/or regional conflicts and those that fail to diversify their economies. The economies of most states in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and some in Latin America will continue to suffer. A large segment of the Eurasian landmass extending from Central Asia through the Caucasus to parts of southeastern Europe faces dim economic prospects. Within countries, the gap in the standard of living also will increase. Even in rapidly growing countries, large regions will be left behind.

World Trade as a Percentage of World GDP: 1990-2015

Emerging Asia will be the fastest growing region, led by breakout candidates China and India, whose economies already comprise roughly one-sixth of global GDP. To the degree that China implements reforms mandated by its entry into the World Trade Organization, its economy will become more efficient, enabling rapid growth to continue. China's economic development, however, will be mainly in the dynamic coastal provinces. Agricultural provinces in northern and western China will lag behind, causing social tensions that Beijing will be challenged to manage. India's relatively strong educational system, democracy, and English-language skills position it well to take advantage of gains related to information technology. India nevertheless faces enormous challenges in spreading the benefits of growth to hundreds of millions of impoverished, often illiterate citizens, particularly in the northern states.

GDP by Countries and the EU: 2000 and 2015

In Europe and Japan, the picture is mixed. Western Europe is likely to narrow what has been a growing economic performance gap with the United States, and Eastern European countries, eager for EU membership, generally will adopt reform policies and grow apace. South-Eastern Europe will improve economic prospects only gradually as it improves regional security. Although Japan's economic performance in the next 15 years will be stronger than that of the 1990s, its relative importance in the global economy will decrease. Economic prospects for Russia and Eurasia are not promising.

Latin America will manage fairly rapid aggregate growth, but it will be spread unevenly across the region. The market-oriented democracies in Mexico and the southern cone will lead the way. A new generation of entrepreneurs will be inclined to favor additional market openings, but the benefits may further distort income distribution, already the most inequitable in the world. Elsewhere, the Andean region will struggle with a poorly educated labor force, unstable governance, and dependence upon commodities such as oil, copper, and narcotics.

The Middle East and North Africa will be marked by increasing internal differentiation as some countries respond more effectively to the challenges of globalization or to the uncertainties of closer integration with the EU while others lag. In Sub-Saharan Africa, persistent conflicts and instability, autocratic and corrupt governments, overdependence on commodities with declining real prices, low levels of education, and widespread infectious diseases will combine to prevent most countries from experiencing rapid economic growth.

The Role of Education

Education will be determinative of success in 2015 at both the individual and country levels. The globalizing economy and technological change inevitably place an increasing premium on a more highly skilled labor force. Adult literacy and school enrollments will increase in almost all countries. The educational gender gap will narrow and probably will disappear in East and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

* Progress will vary among regions, countries, and social groups, triggering increased income inequalities within as well as among countries.
* School enrollments will decline in the most highly impoverished countries, in those affected by serious internal conflicts, and in those with high rates of infectious diseases.

Economic Crises and Resilience
The global economy will be prone to periodic financial crises, but its capacity to correct itself will remain strong. The rapid rebound from the global financial crisis of 1997-98, the limited impact of the recent tripling of oil prices on global economic growth, and the successful management of the "Y2K" problem are the most recent manifestations of resilience. Nonetheless, economic liberalization and globalization entail risks and inevitably will create bumps in the road, some of them potentially highly disruptive.

* Economic crises will recur. The trends toward free markets and deregulation will allow financial markets to overshoot, increase the possibility for sudden reversal in sentiment, and expose individual countries to broad swings in the global market. Any of these could trigger a financial crisis.

* Turbulence in one economy will affect others. Increased trade links and the integration of global financial markets will quickly transmit turmoil in one economy regionally and internationally, as Russia's financial turmoil in 1998 affected Brazil.

* Disputes over international economic rules. The Asian financial crisis revealed differences among countries regarding global financial architecture. As emerging market countries continue to grow, they will seek a stronger voice in setting the terms of international economic governance. A lack of consensus could at times make financial markets skittish and undermine growth.

Alternative Trajectories

Although the outlook for the global economy appears quite strong, achieving sustained high levels of global growth will be contingent on avoiding several potential brakes to growth. Five are described below.

The US economy suffers a sustained downturn. Given the large trade deficit and low domestic savings, the US economy—the most important driver of recent global growth—is vulnerable to loss of international confidence in its growth prospects that could lead to a sharp downturn, which, if long-lasting, would have deleterious economic and policy consequences for the rest of the world. Key trading partners would suffer as the world's largest market contracted, and international financial markets might face profound instability.

Europe and Japan fail to manage their demographic challenges. European and Japanese populations are aging rapidly, requiring more than 110 million new workers by 2015 to maintain current dependency ratios between the working population and retirees. For these countries, immigration is a controversial means of meeting these labor force requirements. Conflicts over the social contract or immigration policies in major European states could dampen economic growth. Japan faces an even more serious labor force shortage and its strategies for responding—enticing overseas Japanese to return, broadening the opportunities for women, and increasing investments elsewhere in Asia—may prove inadequate. If growth in Europe and Japan falters, the economic burden on the US economy would increase, weakening the overall global outlook.

China and/or India fail to sustain high growth. China's ambitious goals for reforming its economy will be difficult to realize: restructuring state-owned enterprises, cleaning up and transforming the banking system, cutting the government's employment rolls in half, and opening up the economy to greater foreign competition. Growth would slow if these reforms go awry, which, in turn, would exacerbate bureaucratic wrangling and increase opposition to the reform agenda. India's reform drive—essential to sustained economic growth—could be sidetracked by social divisions and by the bureaucratic culture of the public service.

Emerging market countries fail to reform their financial institutions. Although most emerging market countries bounced back from the 1997-98 financial crisis more quickly than expected, many have not yet undertaken the financial reforms needed to help them survive the next economic crisis. Absent such reform, a series of future economic crises in emerging market countries could dry up the capital flows crucial for high rates of economic growth.

Global energy supplies are disrupted in a major way. Although the world economy is less vulnerable to energy price swings than in the 1970s, a major disruption in global energy supplies still would have a devastating effect. Conflict among key energy-producing states, sustained internal instability in two or more major energy-producing states, or major terrorist actions could lead to such a disruption.

National and International Governance

The state will remain the single most important organizing unit of political, economic, and security affairs through 2015 but will confront fundamental tests of effective governance. The first will be to benefit from, while coping with, several facets of globalization. The second will be to deal with increasingly vocal and organized publics.

* The elements of globalization—greater and freer flow of information, capital, goods, services, people, and the diffusion of power to nonstate actors of all kinds—will challenge the authority of virtually all governments. At the same time, globalization will create demands for increased international cooperation on transnational issues.
* All states will confront popular demands for greater participation in politics and attention to civil rights—pressures that will encourage greater democratization and transparency. Twenty-five years ago less than a third of states were defined as democracies by Freedom House; today more than half of states are considered democracies, albeit with varying combinations of electoral and civil or political rights. The majority of states are likely to remain democracies in some sense over the next 15 years, but the number of new democracies that are likely to develop is uncertain.

Successful states will interact with nonstate actors to manage authority and share responsibility. Between now and 2015, three important challenges for states will be:

* Managing relations with nonstate actors;
* Combating criminal networks; and
* Responding to emerging and dynamic religious and ethnic groups.

Nonstate Actors
States continually will be dealing with private-sector organizations—both for-profit and nonprofit. These nonstate actors increasingly will gain resources and power over the next 15 years as a result of the ongoing liberalization of global finance and trade, as well as the opportunities afforded by information technology.

The For-profit Sector. The for-profit business sector will grow rapidly over the next 15 years, spearheading legal and judicial reform and challenging governments to become more transparent and predictable. At the same time, governments will be challenged to monitor and regulate business firms through measures consistent with local standards of social welfare.

Multinational corporations—now numbering more than 50,000 with nearly one-half million affiliates—have multiplied in recent years as governments have deregulated their economies, privatized state-owned enterprises, and liberalized financial markets and trade. This trend will continue.

Medium-sized, mostly local firms will multiply in many countries, driven by the shift away from Communism and other socialist models and the broadening of financial services and banking systems. Micro-enterprises also will multiply, not only because of deregulation and liberalization, but also because many states will have a declining capacity to stymie small-scale commercial activities. As medium-sized and small businesses become more numerous, they will encourage, and then link into, various global networks.

The Nonprofit Sector. Nonprofit networks with affiliates in more than one country will grow through 2015, having expanded more than 20-fold between 1964 and 1998. Within individual countries, the nonprofit sector also will expand rapidly.

The Role of the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofit organizations deliver critical services to individuals and private groups, with 67 percent of nonprofit activities in health, education, and social services alone. They provide information and expertise, advocate policies on behalf of their interests, and work through international organizations, both as implementing partners and as advocates. In many development projects and humanitarian emergencies, nonprofits will continue to deliver most of the aid from governments and international organizations.

Over the next 15 years international and national nonprofits will not only expand but change in significant ways.

* Nonprofit organizations will have more resources to expand their activities and will become more confident of their power and more confrontational. Nonprofits will move beyond delivering services to the design and implementation of policies, whether as partners or competitors with corporations and governments.
* Western preponderance will persist but at a declining level as economic growth in Asia and Latin America produces additional resources for support of civil society. In addition, autocratic governments and Islamic states or groups will increasingly support nonprofit groups sympathetic to their interests.
* Nonprofit organizations will be expected to meet codes of conduct. Governments and corporations—which are increasingly held to standards of transparency and accountability—will, in turn, expect nonprofits to meet similar standards.

Criminal Organizations and Networks
Over the next 15 years, transnational criminal organizations will become increasingly adept at exploiting the global diffusion of sophisticated information, financial, and transportation networks.

Criminal organizations and networks based in North America, Western Europe, China, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia will expand the scale and scope of their activities. They will form loose alliances with one another, with smaller criminal entrepreneurs, and with insurgent movements for specific operations. They will corrupt leaders of unstable, economically fragile or failing states, insinuate themselves into troubled banks and businesses, and cooperate with insurgent political movements to control substantial geographic areas. Their income will come from narcotics trafficking; alien smuggling; trafficking in women and children; smuggling toxic materials, hazardous wastes, illicit arms, military technologies, and other contraband; financial fraud; and racketeering.

* The risk will increase that organized criminal groups will traffic in nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The degree of risk depends on whether governments with WMD capabilities can or will control such weapons and materials.

Crime and Corruption Pay

Available data suggest that current annual revenues from illicit criminal activities include: $100-300 billion from narcotics trafficking; $10-12 billion from toxic and other hazardous waste dumping; $9 billion from automobile theft in the United States and Europe; $7 billion from alien smuggling; and as much as $1 billion from theft of intellectual property through pirating of videos, software, and other commodities.

Available estimates suggest that corruption costs about $500 billion—or about 1 percent of global GNP— in slower growth, reduced foreign investment, and lower profits. For example, the average cost of bribery to firms doing business in Russia is between 4 and 8 percent of annual revenue, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Changing Communal Identities and Networks
Traditional communal groups—whether religious or ethnic-linguistic groups—will pose a range of challenges for governance. Using opportunities afforded by globalization and the opening of civil society, communal groups will be better positioned to mobilize coreligionists or ethnic kin to assert their interests or defend against perceived economic or political discrimination. Ethnic diasporas and coreligionists abroad also will be more able and willing to provide fraternal groups with political, financial, and other support.

* By 2015, Christianity and Islam, the two largest religious groupings, will have grown significantly. Both are widely dispersed in several continents, already use information technologies to "spread the faith," and draw on adherents to fund numerous nonprofit groups and political causes. Activist components of these and other religious groupings will emerge to contest such issues as genetic manipulation, women's rights, and the income gap between rich and poor. A wider religious or spiritual movement also may emerge, possibly linked to environmental values.

Criminal Networks and New Technologies

Estimates of the number of distinct ethnic-linguistic groups at the beginning of the twenty-first century run from 2,000 to 5,000, ranging from small bands living in isolated areas to larger groups living in ancestral homelands or in diasporas. Most of the world's 191 states are ethnically heterogeneous, and many contain ethnic populations with co-ethnics in neighboring states. By 2015, ethnic heterogeneity will increase in almost all states, as a result of international migration and divergent birthrates of migrant and native populations.

Current World Illicit Trafficking

Worldwide Adherents of Selected Major World Religions, Mid-1998

Communal tensions, sometimes culminating in conflict, probably will increase through 2015. In addition to some ongoing communal frictions that will persist, triggers of new tensions will include:

* Repression by the state. States with slow economic growth, and/or where executive power is concentrated in an exclusionary political elite and the rule of law and civil or minority rights are weak, will be inclined to discriminate against communal minorities. Such conditions will foment ethnic tensions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and parts of the Middle East, often in rapidly growing urban areas. Certain powerful states—such as Russia, China, Brazil, and India—also are likely to repress politicized communal minorities.

* Religious, often fused with ethnic, grievances. Few Muslim states will grant full political and cultural rights to religious minorities. At the same time, they will not remain indifferent to the treatment of Muslim minorities elsewhere: in Russia, Indonesia, India/Kashmir, China, and the Balkans. Other religious denominations also will support beleaguered coreligionists.

* Resistance to migration. Some relatively homogenous countries or sub-regions in Asia and Europe will resist ethnically diverse migrants, creating tensions.

* Indigenous protest movements. Such movements will increase, facilitated by transnational networks of indigenous rights activists and supported by well-funded international human rights and environmental groups. Tensions will intensify in the area from Mexico through the Amazon region; northeastern India; and the Malaysian-Indonesian archipelago.

Overall Impact on States
The developed democracies will be best positioned for good governance because they will tend to empower legitimate nonstate actors in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors; will favor institutions and processes that accommodate divergent communal groups; will press for transparency in government and the efficient delivery of public services; and will maintain institutions to regulate legitimate for-profit and nonprofit organizations and control illegitimate criminal groups. Countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan have the requisite agility and institutions to meet the challenges. Countries in Eastern Europe as well as Turkey, South Korea, India, Chile, and Brazil, among other developing countries, are moving in these directions, despite some continuing obstacles.

Some newly democratic states and modernizing authoritarian states will have leaders amenable to technological change and access to substantial human and financial resources. They will encourage business firms, nonprofits, and communal groups supportive of the government and discourage or suppress those that are independent-minded or critical of government policies. They will have some success in coping with the energy, ideas, and resources of nonstate actors. Several Asian countries, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and perhaps China, as well as some states in the Middle East and Latin America are likely to take this approach.

Other states in varying degrees will lack the resources and leadership to achieve effective governance. Most autocratic states in the Middle East and Africa will not have the institutions or cultural orientation to exploit the opportunities provided by nonstate actors—apart from certain forms of humanitarian assistance. In many of these countries, nonstate actors will become more important than governments in providing services, such as health clinics and schools. In the weakest of these countries, communal, criminal, or terrorist groups will seek control of government institutions and/or territory.

Overall, the number of states—which has more than tripled since 1945 and has grown 20 percent since 1990—is likely to increase at a slower rate through 2015. This growth will result from remaining cases of decolonization and to communal tensions leading to state secession, most likely in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and Indonesia. In some cases, new states will inspire other secessionist movements, destabilizing countries where minorities were not initially seeking secession.

At the same time, the very concept of "belonging" to a particular state probably will erode among a growing number of people with continuing transnational ties to more than one country through citizenship, residence or other associations.



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