Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Asia-Pacific growth slows down in 2012

 Growth in the East Asia and Pacific region slowed to an estimated 7.5 percent in 2012, from 8.3 percent in 2011, largely due to weak external demand and policy actions in China to contain inflation. Growth in the region, excluding China, slowed less quickly due to robust domestic demand. Economic activity throughout the region accelerated toward the end of the year as global financial markets stabilized and policies in China became more accommodative. Regional GDP growth is projected to pick up to 7.9 percent in 2013 before stabilizing at around 7.5 percent by 2015, with China’s economy expanding at 8.4 percent in 2013, before easing to 7.9 percent by 2015. Ex-China, regional growth is forecast to average 5.9 percent over 2013-2015 on strong domestic demand and intensified global trade flows.

GDP growth in Europe and Central Asia is estimated to have slowed sharply to 3 percent in 2012 from 5.5 percent in 2011 as the region faced significant headwinds, including weak external demand, deleveraging by European banks, summer drought and commodity-price induced inflationary pressures. Growth slowed most in countries with strong economic linkages to the Euro Area, while it was relatively robust in resource-rich economies that have benefited from high commodity prices. GDP growth in the region is projected to rebound to 3.6 percent in 2013 and 4.3 percent by 2015. Medium-term prospects for the region will critically depend on progress in addressing external (large current account deficits) and domestic (large fiscal deficit, unemployment, and inflation) imbalances, lack of competitiveness, and structural constraints.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean region GDP declined to an estimated 3 percent in 2012 (from 4.3 percent in 2011) because of a marked slowdown in domestic demand in some of the largest economies in the region and a weak external environment. Growth in Brazil, the region’s largest economy, expanded only an estimated 0.9 percent in 2012. A more accommodative policy environment, stronger capital flows (notably FDI) and more robust external demand are expected to lift regional growth over 2013-2015 to an average of 3.8 percent. Labor and tax reforms underway in some of the larger economies, and a drive to boost infrastructure investment should help address some of the structural issues that have constrained growth in the region.

Growth in the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be affected by political uncertainty and unrest in several countries. Regional GDP is estimated to have grown by 3.8 percent in 2012 (following a 2.4 percent decline in 2011), mostly due to a pickup in Libyan oil output and continued robust expansion in Iraq. Growth among regional oil importers, however, remained sluggish at an estimated 2.5 percent in 2012 (2.4 percent in 2011) due to weak exports and tourism, together with country-specific problems, including a poor harvest in Morocco, fiscal difficulties in Jordan, and continuing uncertainty and weak reserves position in Egypt. Regional GDP growth is projected to slow to 3.4 percent in 2013, rising to 4.3 percent by 2015, assuming an easing of the current uncertainty and domestic unrest, a strengthening of tourism, and a recovery of the region’s exports as global demand continues to firm.

In South Asia, growth weakened to an estimated 5.4 percent in 2012 (7.4 percent in 2011), mainly due to a sharp slowdown in India, where GDP growth (measured at factor cost) is forecast at 5.4 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2013. Weak global demand exacerbated region-specific factors, including subdued investment growth, electricity shortages, policy uncertainties, and a weak monsoon. Regional GDP is projected to grow by 5.7 percent in the 2013 calendar year, and by 6.4 and 6.7 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively, driven by policy reforms in India, stronger investment activity, normal agricultural production, and improvement in export demand. Growth in India (at factor cost) is projected at 6.4 percent in the 2013 fiscal year, rising to 7.3 percent by 2015.

Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remained robust at 4.6 percent in 2012. Excluding South Africa, the region’s largest economy, GDP output expanded 5.8 percent in 2012, with a third of countries in the region growing by at least 6 percent. Robust domestic demand, still high commodity prices, increased export volumes (due to new capacity in the natural resource sector) and steady remittance flows supported growth in 2012. However, the expansion was curtailed by domestic factors, including earlier monetary policy tightening (Kenya and Uganda), protracted labor disputes (South Africa), and political unrest (Mali and Guinea Bissau). The region is projected to grow at its pre-crisis average of 5 percent during 2013-15. (www.worldbank.org/globaloutlook)

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