Asian growth steady despite weak global prospects, Brexit: ADB

Asian Development Bank

July 18, 2016 (LBO) – Growth in Asia and the Pacific’s developing economies for 2016 and 2017 will remain solid as firm performances from South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia help offset softness from the US economy, and near-term market shocks from the Brexit vote, says a new Asian Development Bank report.

In a supplement to its Asian Development Outlook 2016, released last March, ADB now forecasts 2016 growth for the developing economies at 5.6 percent, below its previous projection of 5.7 percent. For 2017, growth is seen unchanged at 5.7 percent.

“Although the Brexit vote has affected developing Asia’s currency and stock markets, its impact on the real economy in the short term is expected to be small,” said Shang-Jin Wei ADB’s Chief Economist.

“However, in light of the tepid growth prospects in the major industrial economies, policy makers should remain vigilant and be prepared to respond to external shocks to ensure growth in the region remains robust.”

Growth in 2016 and 2017, the report notes, is led by South Asia, and India in particular, which continues to expand strongly, while the People’s Republic of China is on track to meet earlier growth projections.

In East Asia, despite muted activity in Hong Kong, China and the Republic of Korea, growth forecasts are unchanged at 5.7 percent in 2016 and 5.6 percent in 2017, with the world’s second largest economy, China, on track to meet projected growth of 6.5 percent in 2016 and 6.3 percent in 2017.

South Asia, meanwhile is expected to be the fastest growing subregion, led by India, whose economy has shrugged off global headwinds and is on track to meet ADB’s March fiscal year 2016 (year to March 2017) projected growth target of 7.4 percent, supported by brisk consumer spending and an uptick in the rural economy.

In Pakistan, further improvements in energy supply, higher infrastructure investments, and an improved security environment will help push up growth in 2016 and 2017 the report said, while the Bangladesh economy will remain robust on the strength of its garments sector.

In Southeast Asia, growth projections for the subregion in 2016 and 2017 remain unchanged at 4.5 percent and 4.8 percent, with solid performances by most economies in the first half of 2016 driven by private consumption.

The exception was Viet Nam where the economy came under pressure from a worsening drought that caused a contraction in the agriculture sector.

Continued soft commodity prices and the recession in the Russian Federation have further dampened the growth outlook for Central Asia, with the earlier 2016 forecast of 2.1 percent trimmed to 1.7 percent, and 2017 cut to 2.7 percent from 2.8 percent.

The report now projects inflation for developing Asia to come in at 2.8 percent for 2016 and 3.0 percent for 2017—a 0.3 percentage point rise for each year from the previous forecasts.

The rise is due largely to a recovery in oil and food prices. Oil prices rebounded from early-year lows and food prices rose nearly 9 percent in June 2016 from the year earlier, marking the fifth consecutive month the index has risen in value.