Dr Zhu Min, former Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlighted at the rise of populism and the ambiguities of “Trumpnomics” as important factors contributing to global economic uncertainty.

Dr Zhu Min

With the multilateral organisations facing populist criticism, Dr Zhu called for greater co-operation and responsible investment.

"The risks of a strong US dollar should not be underestimated."

Speaking to over 700 international leading figures from across the built environment sector, Dr  Zhu issued a stark warning about levels of corporate debt in Asia. While corporates in the developed markets had been deleveraging, in emerging markets a combination of increased debt levels and low revenue generation raised the prospect of a financial crisis.

Low growth for the medium term

Dr Zhu pointed to a “permanent loss of 12% of GDP growth” globally since 2008. Nonetheless, global growth in the last three years had been stronger than expected. Dr Zhu described a “new normal” characterised by low growth, low inflation, low productivity, low oil prices and low interest rates. He cited IMF concerns about the global economy:

  • weaker growth in the potential labour force in the developed economies , where the proportion of working age population had been steadily falling since its peak in 2008, in contrast to sub-Saharan Africa where the working age population would peak around 2050. This would lead to a population imbalance and increased migration;
  • weaker growth in available investment funds and rising risk premiums, with a possible “dramatic global assets relocation”;
  • sustained falls in labour productivity that failed to make up for the rising numbers of retirees.

Global inflection points

We are at the beginning of a new economic era.

Dr Zhu concluded that low growth appeared to be a structural phenomenon, and would continue for some time.

Dr Zhu acknowledged that overall risk was lower than in 2008 but added that policy makers had fewer options for dealing with market stress. A greater concentration of important risks such as negative inflation, negative interest rates and low trade was raising systemic risks in Asia. Asian economies were subject to additional stress, due to a combination of a strong dollar, rising interest rates, lower liquidity and volatile currency markets.

Alongside the economic picture, Dr Zhu stressed the challenge of rising populism and disparities in wealth distribution, both of which had reached levels comparable to the 1930s.

Read Sean Ellison's, RICS Economist, response to Dr Zhu Min's address to the World Built Environment Forum

What is the World Built Environment Forum?

The World Built Environment Forum is the global network of built environment professionals and their stakeholders aimed at combining knowledge, skills and resources to create and manage the built environment that global populations need. 

What is the Annual Summit?

The Annual Summit offers a regular meeting place for the World Built Environment Forum to discuss the most pressing challenges and identify practical solutions, and to network with international peers. Held in a different urban hub every year, the first two editions of the Annual Summit took place in Washington DC in 2016 and in Shanghai in 2017. The next Annual Summit will be in London on 23-24 April 2018.

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