Developing nations to lift world economy amid US slowdown

They will be the biggest drivers of global growth as pace slows to 3.3% this year: World Bank

DEVELOPING nations will be key in helping the global economy mitigate the drag from a slowing United States.

With their domestic economies coming into their own, poor countries will be the world’s biggest growth driver this year, the World Bank said in a report yesterday.

And Singapore is especially well-poised to take advantage of this as it is located amid the hottest of the world’s emerging economies.

‘I do believe that there is an impact from whatever happens in the US economy on the developing regions,’ World Bank lead economist Hans Timmer said at a press conference to present the bank’s outlook for the world economy.

‘But the result is not that the world economy will be on its knees.’

The bank is predicting global economic growth will moderate to 3.3 per cent this year, due mainly to a slowdown in the US, the world’s biggest economy.

The US, mired in a severe housing market downturn that has caused much financial turmoil worldwide, is widely expected to decelerate further this year.

While the World Bank has estimated that the US should manage a modest 1.9 per cent expansion this year, fears of a recession appear to be rising, prompted by recent economic data.

‘We can certainly smell a US recession although we can’t taste one yet,’ said United Overseas Bank economist Thomas Lam.

Against this ominous backdrop, developing economies are emerging as a bright spot for the year. They are expected to grow 7.1 per cent this year, with East Asia’s growth stars clocking in at an average of 9.7 per cent.

‘Singapore benefits from its location in Asia, which has shown the strongest dynamism in the world,’ said Mr Timmers, who cited the region’s red-hot economies of China and Vietnam. He pointed out that developing nations have become much more resilient to external demand shocks in the past few years.

The US housing slowdown, for instance, began two years ago and has been hurting US imports of goods made in poorer countries.

But that has not derailed the developing world from its growth path as its robust domestic economies – bolstered by better economic policies, open borders and stronger supply-side structures – have been picking up the slack.

Many emerging economies have also been largely unscathed by financial problems caused by the US subprime crisis as their direct exposure to the crisis has been limited.

‘With that resilience, with their strong performance, developing countries are now mitigating the slowdown that is occurring in the US,’ said Mr Timmers.

He noted that the developing economies together equal the US economy in size.

‘But they are growing more than three times as fast. That means their contribution to global demand is more than three times as important as the contribution of the United States.’

Still, a sharp and drastic slowdown in the US remains a key risk to the developing world and the global economy.

Also, an overreaction by policymakers might result in bigger problems down the road.

The World bank warned that if central banks overstimulate the economy with over-aggressive rate cuts, asset bubbles could be created.

‘Commodity markets could tighten further, inflationary pressures would mount and financial imbalances would increase rather than recede.

‘Such a scenario could sow the seeds of a much sharper downturn in the medium term.’


Source: The Straits Times 10 Jan 08

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