Most reports on economics and development these days make depressing reading. But the latest World Development Report, released yesterday by the World Bank, contains some hopeful noises.
The global economy could be fourfold bigger than today in 50 years — GDP of $140 trillion is forecast. In the same period, world population will reach 9 billion, before stablising around 10 billion at the end of the century.
“In the next 50 years, the world’s population will begin to stabilize, and the majority of people will live in cities for the first time in history,” says Zmarak Shalizi, lead author of the report. “By thinking long term and acting now, we can take advantage of these windows of opportunity to shift development to a more inclusive and sustainable path and achieve steep reductions in poverty in the decades ahead.”
The flip side, sadly, is that if we continue to act on the basis of short-term interests, we will end up with a world with vastly greater problems than today. Some global leaders recognise the immediacy of the issues confronting us, but I fear they are in the minority. I think an enormous shift in thinking will be required if the optimistic scenario outlined by the World Bank is to be realised, rather than the gloomy one: “social and environmental strains may derail development progress, leading to higher poverty levels and a decline in the quality of life for everybody”.
Choices need to be made; inaction is a choice that leads inexorably to a very dark century ahead.