Asia-Pacific growth to pick up moderately in 2015 – new UN report
13 January 2015 – Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific are forecast to grow at an average of 5.8 per cent this year, up from 5.6 per cent in 2014, spurred by decreased inflation and a steep decline in oil prices, according to a new United Nations report that indicates that structural reforms and lower oil prices can boost grown for sustainable development.
Growth in the region is being driven by improved economies in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea and Thailand, reports the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in its Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2014: Year-end Update. The report also found that growth in the region still remains below pre-crisis levels.
“Despite improved prospects, many developing economies in the region face structural constraints which have kept them from realizing their growth potential,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said in Bangkok as she unveiled the report today.
“Infrastructure shortages remain acute and growth has not translated into enough decent jobs,” she added. Structural reforms in India and Indonesia are projected to help increase growth to 6.4 and 5.6 per cent, respectively, from 5.5 and 5.2 per cent, respectively, in 2014. Growth in China is forecast to hover around 7 per cent in 2015.
The Year-end Update also estimates that for energy-importing countries, a $10 per barrel drop in the price of oil in 2015 would translate into an increase in GDP growth of up to 0.5 percentage points. However, reduced growth in Russia could deprive neighbouring Central Asian countries of $1.7 billion in remittances.
Among the growth drivers in the region, Thailand’s economy, after the sharp slowdown to 0.8 per cent in 2014, is forecast to grow by 3.9 per cent due to increased short-term consumer and investor confidence following the end of the protracted political instability.
However, likely capital volatility in 2015, triggered by developed world monetary policies could slash Asia-Pacific GDP growth by up to 0.7 percentage points, ESCAP estimates, advocating sound macroeconomic management and macroprudential policies to address this.
On the domestic front, developing countries in the region need to bridge physical and social infrastructure gaps that need an annual investment of $815 billion, according to the Year-end Update. It outlines ways to increase infrastructure financing and recommends labour market reforms to increase decent job opportunities.
Meanwhile, declining global oil prices could reduce fuel subsidies that account for a large share of national budgets in many countries in the region. ESCAP estimates that savings from those subsidies could, for example, finance the provision of income security to the elderly and persons with disabilities as well as universal access to health and education.
“This is a particularly critical and opportune time to decrease subsidies,” the ESCAP Executive Secretary said, noting that this would not only reduce budgetary strains but also prepare governments for the near future when global financing may be even more challenging to secure.
“Reducing subsidies can raise significant public financial resources for productive investment in the region and could make needed funds available for financing sustainable development,” Dr. Akhtar concluded.