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Prospects for 2H19: How have risks changed for emerging Asia? The Philippines: Geared for take-off as reforms pay dividends

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Highlights from the CAA Weekly Table

What has changed?

  • Two conflicting forces are at work in the global economy: Geopolitical risks in the Middle East could worsen, raising oil prices further, which will take a toll on global growth. But, major central banks’ policy shifts have produced easier monetary conditions which will offset some of this weakness.
  • Policy reaction in Asia is critical: The beleaguered Indian economy has been further beset by a delayed monsoon and the deepening liquidity crunch, stronger fiscal support is likely when the delayed budget statement is issued in July. Indonesia is set to step up monetary and fiscal stimulus. However, the Philippines central bank refrained from another rate cut, pausing to assess the impact of previous easing. Thailand’s political challenges appear to have weakened its capacity for effective action just when the it is needed to support growth.
  • Asian political risks: Continued protests in Hong Kong could end in tears unless protestors avoid further provoking the Beijing authorities. In Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim’s chances of smoothly succeeding Prime Minister Mahathir could be in jeopardy as the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition is at risk of being rent apart by internal schisms.

Prospects for the second half of 2019: How have risks changed for emerging Asian economies?

  • The global economy has become more fragile of late, with the recent deceleration reinforced by the US-China trade spat, headwinds to China’s growth and geo-political tensions.
  • The most likely scenarios for each of these dangers, however, suggest that global demand for Asian exports should recover in the second half, though the rebound is likely to be muted as global capital spending will remain patchy. A limited agreement between US and Chinese leaders to resolve some of their trade frictions at this week’s G20 summit meeting could improve business confidence and release some of this pent-up demand for investment.
  • Another key to Asia’s prospects will be the tepid recovery we see in the troubled Chinese economy. This should generate positive spillovers by way of outbound tourism growth, a rally in cyclically-sensitive commodities and improving risk appetites of global investors.
  • The dangers to Asia come from geopolitical flashpoints. Be it the standoff between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf, or protestors in Hong Kong dangerously testing the Beijing leadership’s patience, the risks seem skewed to the downside.

The Philippines: Geared for take-off as reforms pay dividends

  • Tax reform has broadened the revenue base and increased the tax share of GDP. The debt ratio has halved from 90% in 2014, with external debt/GDP falling. This in turn has allowed a surge in infrastructure spending which is boosting economic development.

The Administration now has the numbers in the Senate to ensure passage of the remaining tax packages by 2020. This will help raise the government’s contribution to national.

How will Asian economies fare in a more turbulent global economy?; Competitiveness: SE Asia rises; reform impetus to reinforce this trend

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Highlights from the CAA Weekly Table

What has changed?

  • Global economy: The latest purchasing manager surveys reflect a general slowing in the world economy including emerging Asian. However, there are pockets of resilience in Asia due to production relocation and trade diversion. With both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank signalling easier monetary policy, Asian central banks will have greater leeway to cut rates as well.
  • Asian economies: As the Rupiah has shown resilience of late, we think that Bank Indonesia is becoming more confident about moving ahead with a rate cut in the next few months. Signs of a slowdown in the Indian economy all but guarantee another rate cut soon, but its ability to revive economic activity will be muted as the undercapitalized banking sector will not be able to step up lending. An uptick in exports is a positive for trade-reliant Malaysia, but is unlikely to last given the parlous outlook for global trade. A benign inflation outlook suggests more rate cuts are in store for the Philippine economy. With external demand in the doldrums, fiscal support will be key for the Thai economy to remain on an even keel. However, political infighting could jeopardize timely passage of the next budget.

Asian political risks: More worries about succession to Prime Minister Mahathir have surfaced: the resulting uncertainty will be yet another headwind for the economy.