With economic growth expected to continue at a reasonably good clip this year and next, it’s all too easy to think there’s not much to worry about. Even as Diwali celebrations begin across India, the outlook for the world economy is fairly uneven and uncertain. More worrisome than the subdued global growth outlook, risks are building up especially in Europe—and these include an extreme scenario with financial disruption. Although India’s economy has generally been less prone to external forces than many others, we still need to contend with the larger than typical risks in the global economy. These risks harken the need for a new wave of reforms. What does the more somber darker global outlook mean for India? And exactly what policies are needed?
For the past two or three decades, rising inequality—inequality of incomes, of economic outcomes and of economic opportunities—has taken a back seat to the goal of boosting overall growth. But growing discontent with the fallout of the global financial crisis has put inequality back on top of the policy agenda. While the symptoms may be different, tackling inequality is no less an issue in Asia. Indeed, research shows that inequality can be counterproductive to sustaining longer-term growth. So, in increasingly turbulent global economic times, this gives added importance to promoting shared—or inclusive—growth in Asia that is more likely to be sustained. This has been a major focus our latest Regional Economic Outlook, which we presented in Manila today. A great challenge for the government here, and for other countries across the region, is to raise living standards for a wide section of their populations.
Recent large equity sell-offs across Asia and safe haven flows into Japan illustrate perfectly the region’s vulnerabilities to further global shocks. While the region’s fundamentals—built up over the past decade—remain relatively strong, economic uncertainties in Europe and the United States pose large downside risks. The world economy has entered a dangerous new phase and, as the IMF’s Managing Director stated recently, “what makes the situation all the more urgent is that it has implications for every country.” Our Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacific emphasizes these risks, and stresses the need for policymakers to remain vigilant and nimble in this extraordinarily uncertain climate. The view from here in Tokyo—looking out at the region—may be more serene than the view from other advanced country capitals, but there are storm clouds on the horizon.
Capital flows emerging Asia should be high on the ‘watch list’ for policymakers in the region. But, perhaps, not in the way we had previously anticipated. Twelve months ago we were keenly attuned to the risks posed by the foreign capital that flooded into Asia from mid-2009 onwards. Now, what we’re seeing is not really all that “exceptional.” With the recent surge, net overall capital flows to emerging have not surpassed the peaks reached in past episodes of large inflows to the region. Of course, that’s not to say it's all blue skies. The nature of inflows is different this time—dominated by portfolio flows—and that poses new challenges and risks for policymakers.
Much of the debate over global rebalancing has focused on the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But that’s missing the bigger picture. With the growth of cross-border supply chains—a signature feature of Asia’s trade in recent decades—it would be misleading to focus on bilateral imbalances and exchange rates. Instead of specializing in producing certain types of final goods, Asian exporters increasingly have specialized in certain stages of production and become vertically integrated with each other. So, as Asia’s economies strive to rebalance their growth models, we need to understand better how the regional supply chain affects the way exchange rates and shifts in global demand work.
As the economic recovery has matured across much of Asia, the region has continued to be a driving force in the strengthening global recovery. Yet, recent tragic events—around the globe, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—are an all too poignant reminder of the fragility of our economic circumstances and, indeed, life. Much of this weighs on my mind as I am here in Hong Kong to launch our April 2011 Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific. While the outlook is by no means gloomy, policies will need to tackle new downside risks that have emerged and how to manage the next phase of Asia’s growth.
Of all the things policymakers have had to worry about in the past couple of years, inflation wasn’t one of them. Some even heralded the end of inflation. Today, inflation still isn’t a ‘problem’ in Asia. For the most part, it remains relatively modest, but it is on the rise in some countries in the region. And understanding what is driving that inflation matters. Policymakers need to consider the sources of inflation in choosing policy actions and policy tools. The issue of what drives inflation—or so-called inflation dynamics—is examined in our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook for the Asia and Pacific region. In this post, Anoop Singh discusses the findings.
Continuing my travels through Asia for the launch of our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific, I am writing to you today from Singapore. Last week, I wrote about the near-term outlook for Asia. Today, I turn to the key medium-term challenge—an issue emphasized by G-20 ministers over the weekend—the need to rebalance economic growth. For much of Asia, this means shifting away from heavy reliance on exports by strengthening domestic sources of growth. While much of the discussion on this issue has focused on ways to increase consumption, the role of investment is equally important and should not be overlooked.
I am in Asia this week to launch our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific (REO) in Jakarta and Singapore. As I have inevitably found during visits to Asia over so many years, the mood here is confident about future economic prospects. Yet it is also watchful for risks that may be lurking over the horizon. This mood matches closely the main messages of our current assessment of the outlook for the region. In the first of several blogs posts from the region, here I reflect on the self-sustaining recovery under way across Asia, the risk external risk factors and, the pressing issue for Asian policymakers, policy options for managing the tide of large capital inflows.