Global Links


The world economy is bound together by financial flows, trade in goods and services, and movements of people. As national economies develop, the links between them expand and grow more complex.

The Global Links indicators provide an overview of the flows and associations that enable the world’s economy—and the economies of individual countries—to grow and expand. These indicators measure the size and direction of these flows, and document policy interventions such as tariffs, trade facilitation, and aid flows.

What types of data are available?

External indebtedness affects a country’s creditworthiness and investor perceptions. Data on external debt are gathered through the World Bank’s Debtor Reporting System (DRS). The World Bank’s interest in debt statistics is both analytical and operational. At the analytical level, the Bank is a leading international source of information and analysis on the economic situation of developing countries. At the operational level, the lending activities of the Bank demand a close monitoring of the overall financial situation of each borrower, such as a country’s debt-servicing capacity.

Data on other financial flows such as foreign direct investment (FDI) or aid are also available in the WDI. Distinguished from other kinds of international investment, FDI is made to establish a lasting interest in or effective management control over an enterprise in another country. The WDI provides data showing total net FDI, FDI net inflows and outflows, as well as information on portfolio equity investment. Aid flows aim to support sustainable development and to promote inclusive economic growth, including poverty reduction and improvement of living standards for the most disadvantaged.  Indicators in the WDI provide information on aid dependency, as measured through the official aid flows data published by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Trade in goods, or merchandise trade, includes all goods that add to or subtract from an economy’s material resources. Trade data are collected on the basis of a country’s customs area, which in most cases is the same as its geographic area. Trade data (including merchandise trade, tariffs, or net barter terms of trade) are drawn from a variety of sources such as the United Nations Statistics Division’s Commodity Trade Statistics (Comtrade) database, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Collecting trade statistics can be difficult in countries which lack the capacity to report timely data and countries whose territorial boundaries are porous. In addition, economic and political concerns regarding strategic goods or the exports of a dominant producer, efforts to avoid taxes, or black-market trading, can create challenges in the reporting of certain trade flows.

The Global Links section also encompasses indicators used to measure the movement of people across borders. Time series data is available for net migration, personal remittances, and the number of refugees by country of origin and by country of asylum.

The relevance of the flows and partnerships presented in this section is recognized by several SDG goals, particularly SDG Goal 10 on reducing inequalities within and among countries, and Goal 17 on global partnerships for sustainable development. Specifically, the indicator on net official development assistance (ODA) received as a share of GNI is used to monitor the SDG target 17.2 on the implementation of official development assistance commitments. Countries’ total debt service as a proportion of exports of goods and services is the lead indicator used to monitor SDG target 17.4, which aims to assist developing countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability.

A selection of relevant indicators is presented below. The table shows, for each featured indicator, time coverage per year, for all countries, for each decade since the 1960s, and regional coverage for each World Bank geographical region since 2010. For detailed thematic lists please refer to the World Development Indicators Statistical Tables.