Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2016


Promoting growth through structural reform and regional integration Key messages Outlook and general assessment • Real growth in Emerging Asia (Southeast Asia, China and India) will experience mild moderation in 2015, at 6.5%, and is projected to moderate gradually over the medium-term (2016-20) to an average of 6.2% annually. Growth in China will continue to slow while growth in India picks up to one of the highest levels in the region. Growth in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region will be similar and is projected to average 4.6% in 2015 and 5.2% over 2016-20, led by growth in the Philippines and Viet Nam among the ASEAN-5 and the CLM (Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar) countries. Private consumption will be a large contributor to overall growth, while exports will contribute less than during most of the prior decade. • The region will have to cope with potential external and domestic risks to sustain its growth momentum. The slowdown in China’s economy will continue to affect the growth prospects of the rest of the region as export demand drops and investment flows decline, though countries vary in their level of exposure to these risks. The prospect of United States monetary normalisation, beginning in the near future, is expected to have relatively more mild impacts on the region, but may also be a cause for concern in some cases. Much of Emerging Asia has seen slowing productivity growth since the global financial crisis. This trend will need to be reversed for growth to pick up. Special focus for 2016 edition: Enhancing regional ties • Regional integration efforts have intensified at varying levels over the years to implement the regional integration initiatives of ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6. Current efforts are still not enough to achieve integration targets despite important and positive achievements. In particular, ASEAN countries need to take active steps to realise a single economic market by 2015 and beyond, and make additional efforts, including: i) co-ordinating between regional initiatives and national agendas, and regional and sub-regional initiatives, avoiding duplication and moving in the same direction; ii) reducing disparities in the region by supporting the further development of the CLM countries; iii) moving towards a “Global ASEAN” that is integrated in the global economy and stronger ties with the ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6 frameworks; and iv) strengthening monitoring capacity through better indicators and peer learning to make the regional agenda more effective. • Addressing important policy areas in the 2016-25 integration agenda that were not addressed adequately in pre-2015 agendas, is critical. This particularly pertains to the issues of green growth and renewable energy and private sector development. First, the region should tap into its considerable potential in renewable energy to meet growing demand. Tariffs and non-economic barriers slow integration and impede opportunities for improved efficiency in the renewable energy sector. Hydropower from the Mekong River, for example, is progressing and remains a promising source of future generating capacity to be exported throughout the region. Second, greenfield investments have declined, in particular, in the manufacturing sector and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) investment has been limited to specific sectors and specific countries in the region. Local business can take advantage of the changes related to the ASEAN Economic Community and expand their operations across ASEAN, transforming to be real regional entities or “ASEAN enterprises”. Structural policy country notes • While the structural policy priorities for Emerging Asia countries are highly diverse, many of these countries have set goals for improving inclusive and sustainable development, recognising the need for high-quality growth. Formulating new development strategies will require adopting a comprehensive package of reforms for SMEs, finance, infrastructure, labour market, environmental policy and in the agriculture, education, social security and tourism sectors. Overall, the implementation of development plans in Emerging Asia needs to improve.

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About Christian Hoffeldt

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