Growth in Asia and the Pacific is expected to remain strong at 5.3 percent this year and next — accounting for almost two-thirds of global uptick – but there are several downside risks and in the short term China’s transition to a new growth model will disrupt the region, the International Monetary Fund said.
While external demand remains sluggish, domestic demand continues to show resilience across most of the region, driven by low unemployment, growth in disposable income, lower commodities prices, and macroeconomic stimulus, the report aded.
“Of course, Asia is impacted by the still weak global recovery, and by the ongoing and necessary rebalancing in China,” said Changyong Rhee, Director of the Asia and Pacific Department at the IMF.
“But domestic demand has remained remarkably resilient throughout most of the region, supported by rising real incomes, especially in commodity importers, and supportive macroeconomic policies in many countries,” he added.
The report said that the outlook for individual countries within the region varies. China and Japan, the two largest economies in Asia, continue to face challenges. China’s growth is forecast to moderate from 6.9 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent this year and 6.2 percent in 2017. China’s economy continues its rebalancing of shifting away from manufacturing and investment to services and consumption.
“While this transition to slower but more sustainable growth is desirable for both China and the global economy, it is causing changes in the manufacturing sector over the medium term, as heavy industries, such as steel and shipbuilding, face major consolidation to reduce excess capacity. Meanwhile, consumer expenditure has become a more important growth engine,” the IMF said in a statement.
Other economies in the region are set to perform well, according to the report, with India benefitting from lower oil prices and remaining the fastest-growing large economy in the world, with GDP expected to increase by 7.5 percent this year and next.
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam is leading the fast-growing economies in the region, helped by rapidly growing exports of electronics and garment manufactures. For the Philippines and Malaysia, growth is expected to remain robust, underpinned by resilient domestic demand.
However, the report added, the region faces a slew of external challenges, including slow growth in advanced economies, a broad slowdown across emerging markets, weak global trade, persistently low commodity prices, and increasingly volatile global financial markets. These risks compound domestic vulnerabilities, such as high debt incurred in recent years.
“In the short term, China’s transition to a new growth model will disrupt its regional partners, especially those heavily exposed to the region’s biggest economy,” it said.
The report also recognised that the outcome could turn out more positive than forecast. Low commodity prices could be a bigger boost to the region’s economies than expected; and regional and multilateral trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, could benefit Asia-Pacific even before they are ratified.