(EnergyAsia, December 17 2014, Wednesday) — The weaker outlook for Asia’s developing economies is being offset by a “golden opportunity” to implelemt reforms presented by declining oil prices, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In its latest update, the bank said it expects the gross domestic product (GDP) of the region’s 45 economies to grow by a combined 6.1% in 2014 and 6.2% next year. In September, the bank had forecast those economies to grow by a collective rate of 6.2% for both years, up from 6.1% in 2013.

The bank downgraded growth projections for Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia and left unchanged its outlook for South Asia. It raised the outlook for the region’s Pacific economies.

“While growth in the first three quarters of this year were somewhat softer than we had expected, declining oil prices may mean an upside surprise in 2015 as most economies are oil importers,” said ADB chief economist Shang-Jin Wei.

The bank lowered its forecasts for collective growth in the US, the eurozone and Japan for 2014 from 1.5% previously to 1.4%. It expects their combined growth to reach 2.1% in 2015.

The forecast growth for China’s economy has been revised downward to 7.4% in 2014 from 7.5%, and to 7.2% from 7.4% for 2015.

The India economy is seen growing by 5.5% in for FY2014, ending March 31 2015.

“By eliminating diesel fuel subsidies, the government has demonstrated its willingness to tackle contentious reforms, but it must extend its efforts to reach the forecast 6.3% growth in FY2015,” said the ADB.

For Southeast Asia, it said growth in the larger economies has been lower than anticipated in the first nine months of 2014, with slight reductions to the projections for Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

“GDP in the subregion is expected to expand by 4.4% in 2014, down from 4.6% forecast in the Update, and 5.1% in 2015, down from 5.3%,” it said.

The outlook for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian economies is being dampened by events in Russia, leading to the ADB lowering its forecasts for the region’s growth to 5.1% from 5.6% for 2014 and to 5.4% from 5.9% for 2015. The bank cited reduced remittance flows and muted external demand as undermining growth in Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan.

Declining oil and commodity prices are helping to mute cost pressures in most developing Asian economies, enabling the bank to slash the region’s inflationary rate to 3.2% in 2014 and 3.5% in 2015, compared with 3.4% and 3.7% previously.

“Falling global oil prices present a golden opportunity for importers like Indonesia and India to reform their costly fuel subsidy programs,” said the bank’s Mr Wei.

“On the other hand, oil exporters can seize the opportunity to develop their manufacturing sectors as low commodity prices tend to make their real exchange rates more competitive.”


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