WASHINGTON, DC: The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday amended its October 2007 forecast for world economic growth in 2008, revising it downward from nearly 5% to 4.1% - a southbound sag of 21 percentage points.

But it's not a recession, bank officials hasten to reassure. Merely a "significant global slowdown". The former is officially defined as "a period of two quarters of negative GDP growth".

Best and worst case scenarios are likely to be equally painful, especially in the planet's wealthier economies. In the USA, the IMF predicts growth will slow to under 1% in the final quarter of 2008.

And even the tiger economies are predicted to grow more slowly than in 2007, although in some cases even retarded growth will still be healthy.

Only one region – Africa – bucks the downward trend, attributable say the IMF economists, to the higher prices now commanded for many of the commodities exported by African nations.

Another positive trend for that continent is an improvement in economic policies; also that it is less exposed than, say, Asia to the present problems in the global financial bazaars.

However, the IMF's backroom boys say the widely propounded belief that the world in the twenty-first century has become independent of what happens in the USA is "greatly exaggerated".

Meaning, if the IMF is to be believed, that the hoary economic axiom "when America sneezes, the world catches a cold", is as true as ever.

But as some observers have pointed out, given the inexorable rise and rise of the Chinese and Indian economies, the US common cold is unlikely to infect the rest of the world beyond the next decade.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff