World growth prospects have deteriorated in the last year, according to the third annual report on world development published today by the World Bank. The report takes a much gloomier view of the outlook for the 1980s than did last year's.
High oil prices, inflation and recession mean that growth in the world's poorer countries will be substantially below that forecast by the bank last year. The number of people living in absolute poverty in the developing world could be even higher in 1990 than in 1980, the report says.
The bank assumes that energy supplies are likely to remain tight throughout the '80s. It projects an oil price of $78.30 per barrel by 1990, including the effects of inflation during the decade. In today's dollars it projects the oil price at $35.10 by 1985 and $40.85 by 1990. The cost of a barrel of oil imported into the United States now is approximately $33.
Richer industrialized countries have an important part to play in ensuring that the world economy does not stagnate throughout the '80s but improves in the second half of the decade, the World Bank goes on.
The United States and other industrialized countries could benefit themselves as well as the developing countries if they boosted their imports from the poorer nations, the report says.
It also calls on the richer nations to increase their aid to the Third World and to encourage their banks to lend money for developments. Huge financial surpluses in the sparsely populated oil-exporting nations, such as Saudi Arabia, mean large counterpart deficits for the 80 percent of the developing world that does not have oil. For these deficits to be financed, the poorer countries need increased capital -- both private and government-backed from the industrialized world, the World Bank says.
A major part of the report is devoted to the importance of human development, through education, health care and better nutrition as well as increased income and production.
Money spent on education has a particularly high return, the bank says, both to the country that steps up its primary education and to people who attend the schools. In countries that are very poor and have an adult literacy rate of less than 50 percent, a bank study of 30 countries estimated that there was a return of 27.3 percent on money spent for primary education, compared with one of slightly over 17 percent on seconday education and 12 percent for higher education. Rates of return on physical investment would typically be much less than this.
Educating women is particularly valuable, the report says. "Educating girls may be one of the best investments a country can make in future economic growth and welfare -- even if the girls never enter the labor force," the report says. Studies in some Third World countries show that better educated mothers are less likely to have children who die, tend to feed their families better and are more likely to know about and use contraceptives.
However, there is considerable bias against women in many developing countries. They not only tend to be less educated, the report says, but also to be worse fed. Female life expectancy, which exceeds that of men in the developed world, is typically below that of men in the poorer countries.
The World Bank report endorses some of the recommendations of the Brandt Commission, which recently published a book on North-South relations stressing the interdependence of rich and poor.
The Brandt Commission suggested a new international agency to deal with the special problems caused by more expensive oil, and huge balance of payments surpluses and deficits throughout the world. But the bank report calls for more money for the existing agencies.
It says, for example, that its new program for "structural adjustment lending," to provide longer-term loans to developing countries, has not yet had funds allocated to it.
"The international agencies are hampered by a shortage of resources, especially to finance longer-term adjustment," the report says. "Most of their proposed major capital increases and replenishments have run into authorization or appropriation delays."