Economists foresee slowdown in rate of global growth in '85
Boston — The world recovery will continue for another year at least. But economic growth will be slower in 1985. That is the consensus view of leading economic forecasters.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff, in a report prepared for its directors last week, said: ''The current challenge to policy is to sustain and broaden the present recovery.''
Roger Brinner, chief economist at Data Resources Inc. (DRI), agreed, saying that the world's biggest economic problem is ''to figure out a transition strategy - make it from the troubled beginnings of the 1980s to the end.''
The Lexington, Mass., economic consulting firm is predicting that real growth (adjusted for inflation) in world output next year will slow to 2.7 percent from about 4.5 percent this year. One basic reason for the slowdown, he says, will be a ''growth recession'' next year in the United States, which accounts for approximately 30 percent of the output of all noncommunist industrial nations.
As a result of high interest rates, Mr. Brinner says real gross national product, the production of goods and services in constant dollars, will grow at only a 1 percent annual rate in the US during the last three quarters of next year.
Most other forecasters expect a more moderate slowdown in the US.
Nonetheless, the forecasts for the world economy are not widely different.
For example, Chase Econometrics, another economic consulting firm, predicts world growth of 4.1 percent this year and around 2.6 percent next year. Wharton Economic Forecasting Associates talks of 4.25 percent growth in 1984 and 3 percent in 1985.
The IMF, in its annual report released Wednesday, once more advises the US to reduce its federal deficit.
The brisk pace of recovery in the US and Canada, the report says, ''provides an exceptional opportunity for those two countries to make useful and necessary adjustments in their budgetary structures, while avoiding some of the adverse repercussions that might have resulted from such actions during the recession period.'' Deficit reduction, the IMF continues, would shift the balance between government and private use of savings and ''be helpful for keeping total domestic demand within sustainable bounds.''
Because of the size of the US economy, a smaller deficit would also make more money available for private investment throughout the world, the report maintains.
DRI's Brinner blames the deficit for high interest rates and the possibility of a major slowdown in the US economy next year - unless the Federal Reserve Board steps in with an easier monetary policy to counter this trend.
Blue Chip Economic Worldscan, St. Louis, regularly surveys some 41 economic forecasters from the US and abroad as to their views of the economies of the major noncommunist nations.
Looking at various regions of the world, here's what the economic forecasters are saying:
Western Europe: There will be no big change, says David Rolley, senior international economist with Chase Econometrics. He says he expects real growth to run between 2 and 2.5 percent this year and next.
Europe, adds DRI's Brinner, has been benefiting from the vigorous US economy and its strong dollar.
Even if the dollar weakens, that will help Europe for at least six months by reducing the cost of such needed imports as oil and other commodities.
But eventually it would make it tougher for Europe to export to the US.
Flemming Larsen, director of forecasting at Wharton, sees an ''underlying weakness'' in the European economy beyond the impact of strikes in Germany and the United Kingdom.
''It is very early in a recovery to see such a peak,'' he says.
Brinner talks of the ''loss of confidence'' in Europe, with little decline in high unemployment rates expected.
Latin America: Mr. Rolley sees ''some slow improvement'' ahead, with the growth of average real output moving from 0.5 percent this year to 2.7 percent in 1985 and 4 percent in 1986.
But because Latin America has suffered a period of stagnation since 1981 and because its population is growing by some 2.5 percent a year, such low growth rates are ''a disaster,'' he says.
Real incomes for Latin Americans are down 10 to 15 percent and won't rise to their earlier levels until the end of the decade.
Rolley says he regards the debt problem of the developing countries, primarily of Latin American nations, as the biggest problem for the world economy for the next 12 months.
High real interest rates and weak commodity prices are holding back growth rates, he addes. ''We are looking at an extensive period of workout,'' he says.
Ram Bhagavatula, an economist with Citicorp, says an unweighted average of inflation for eight Latin American nations shows consumer prices rising from 96 percent in 1983 to 126 percent this year and then dropping to 100 percent next year.
Far East: Aside from the Philippines, the Pacific Basin is enjoying a husky recovery. Wharton estimates real growth in output at 6 percent this year on average for Japan, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and 6 percent again next year. Many of these nations, notes Wharton's Larsen, are benefiting enormously from the US recovery.
Middle East: With oil prices expected to be flat, growth should be modest, according to Chase Econometric's Rolley.
Africa: This is the weakest region in the world, though the picture is mixed from country to country. Citicorp anticipates real output in South Africa, the most powerful nation on the continent, to grow about 1.5 percent this year and 2 percent in 1985.
Eastern Europe: These nations' economies are expected to pick up mildly on average over the next few years.
As for world trade, it should grow about 8 to 8.5 percent this year - a healthy recovery from a bad slump during the recent recession.
The IMF, in its annual report, calls for ''a serious attack on the protectionist tendencies that have been allowed to flourish in a recessionary environment.'' This is specially important, it notes, because of the need of the developing countries to export to earn enough to service their massive debts.
Looking further into a murky crystal ball, Wharton's Larsen says he sees the industrial nations following the US into a recession in 1986. Citicorp's Mr. Bhagavatula says he also worries about a slump in the US in late 1985 or 1986. But, he adds, if the nation avoids a rapid increase in inflation this winter, policymakers are not likely to step on the brakes. The recovery could then continue.
TWorld economic growth rates (Adjusted for inflation) 1983 1984* 1985* Main industrial countries 2.7% 5.2% 3.5% US 3.7 7.3 4.0 Japan 3.0 5.0 4.1 Canada 3.3 4.6 3.1 France 0.7 1.3 1.7 West Germany 1.3 2.7 2.6 Italy -1.2 2.5 2.4 United Kingdom 3.2 2.4 2.4 Other industrial countries 1.8 3.1 2.7 Developing countries 0.9 3.7 4.4 Oil exporting countries 0.8 3.8 4.6 Non-oil exporting countries 1.8 3.7 4.3
Source: International Monetary Fund