Careful macroeconomic management and structural reforms key to maintaining resilience in the country and the rest of East Asia and the Pacific Region
WASHINGTON, APRIL 10, 2016—Growth in Developing East Asia and Pacific has remained resilient and is expected to ease only modestly during 2016-18, according to a new World Bank report. This outlook is subject to elevated risks and countries should continue to prioritize monetary and fiscal policies that reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen credibility, while deepening structural reforms.
Growth in developing East Asia is expected to ease from 6.5 percent in 2015 to 6.3 percent in 2016 and 6.2 percent in 2017-18. The forecast reflects China’s gradual shift to slower, more sustainable growth, expected to be 6.7 percent in 2016 and 6.5 percent in 2017, compared with 6.9 percent in 2015.
“Developing East Asia and Pacific continues to contribute strongly to global growth. The region accounted for almost two-fifths of global growth in 2015, more than twice the combined contribution of all other developing regions,” said Victoria Kwakwa, incoming World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President. “The region has benefited from careful macroeconomic policies, including efforts to boost domestic revenue in some commodity-exporting countries. But sustaining growth amid challenging global conditions will require continued progress on structural reforms.”
The East Asia and Pacific Economic Update examines the region’s growth prospects against a challenging backdrop: slow growth in high-income countries, a broad slowdown across emerging markets, weak global trade, persistently low commodity prices, and increasingly volatile global financial markets.
Not including China, the region’s developing countries grew by 4.7 percent in 2015, and the pace of growth will pick up slightly — to 4.8 percent in 2016 and 4.9 percent in 2017-18 — driven by growth in the large Southeast Asian economies. However, the outlook for individual countries varies, depending on their trade and financial relationships with high-income economies and China, as well as their dependence on commodity exports.
Among the large developing Southeast Asian economies, the Philippines and Vietnam have the strongest growth prospects, both expected to grow by more than 6 percent in 2016.
Buoyed by strong private consumption and election spending, the Philippines is projected to grow 6.4 percent in 2016 before tempering slightly to 6.2 percent in 2017. In Indonesia, growth is forecast at 5.1 percent in 2016 and 5.3 percent in 2017, contingent on the success of recent reforms and implementation of an ambitious public investment program.
Several small economies, including Lao PDR, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea, will continue to be affected by low commodity prices and weaker external demand. Cambodia’s growth will be slightly below 7 percent during 2016-18, reflecting weaker prices for agricultural commodities, constrained garment exports, and moderating growth in tourism. In the Pacific Island Countries, growth is likely to remain moderate.
“Developing East Asia and Pacific faces elevated risks, including a weaker-than-expected recovery in high-income economies and a faster-than-expected slowdown in China. At the same time, policy makers have less room to manoeuver in setting macroeconomic policy,” said Sudhir Shetty, Chief Economist of the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Region. “Countries should adopt monetary and fiscal policies that reduce their exposure to global and regional risks, and continue with structural reforms to boost productivity and promote inclusive growth.”
“In the recent years, the Philippines has continued to deepen macroeconomic stability, promoted transparency and put a lot of resources in infrastructure and services that helped poor and vulnerable families,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director for the Philippines. “The country can make further strides in poverty reduction if it can enhance competition in sectors that can create more and better jobs like rice, shipping, and telecommunications; simplify business regulations to encourage more entrepreneurs to set up shop; and improve people’s access to land through better adjudication of land rights.”
Across the region more generally, there is a growing need for prudent fiscal policy to guard against future external shocks. This is especially important in those economies where growth has been sustained through increased public or private sector borrowing, or where external demand has been supported by the commodities boom.
Over the longer term, the report calls for governments to boost transparency and strengthen accountability. It urges countries to reduce barriers to regional trade, such as non-tariff measures and regulatory barriers, including to trade in services. And the report stresses that the benefits from the digital revolution will be maximized by developing regulatory regimes that favor competition, and by helping workers adapt their skills to the demands of the new economy.
The East Asia and Pacific Update is the World Bank’s comprehensive review of the region’s economies. It is published twice yearly and is available free of charge at http://www.worldbank.org/eapupdate