Expert panel asks emerging Asian nations to adapt to changing global conditions

Davos, Jan.27: An expert panel on the ‘Outlook for Asian Emerging Markets’ noted that that governments in emerging Asian countries need to get better at adapting their domestic policies to changing global conditions.

A panel of experts, including Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Deputy Director General, IMF Dr Min Zhu said that leaders must continuously adjust their domestic policies to keep up with the changing environment

Speaking at the CII-BCG Breakfast Session during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos over the weekend, Dr. Min Zhu said that as emerging Asia faces a new period of diminished growth, governments in the region will have to continuously adjust their fiscal and monetary policies and structures to deal with a slowdown in the global economy.

Zhu said that after roughly 15 years of strong growth, the IMF projects real GDP growth in emerging Asia to be 6.7 percent this year, due to an overall cooling in the global economy and in particular a slowdown in China.

To minimize short-term gyrations and achieve more stable GDP growth, he said that governments in emerging Asia nations, and other developing markets, need to manage their policies actively and react faster to external forces. He cautioned them not to be too internally focused.

“The key issue is, in the long run, if you want to have sustainable growth, whether you will be able to adjust your policy and internal structure…according to the external situation,” he said.

Two developments he flagged as major challenges to growth were the U.S. Federal Reserve’s planned reduction in its bond-buying program and the slowing growth rate in China.

While “not concerned” about China’s slowdown, he said that its planned reduction in investment and push for increased internal consumption will have “a profound impact” on the region. So governments need to pay close attention.

“China’s current level of investment-46 percent of its GDP, is “not sustainable” and should come down to 36 percent, ideally within five or six years. If Chinese investment drops by one percent, it will reduce the GDP growth rates of its trade partners by 0.2 to 0.4 percent,” he said.

Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, agreeing with Dr Zhu’s cautionary comments, said that India’s government could not blame the country’s flat growth entirely on the global economy, while noting that India’s growth rate has been about 5 percent since last year, down significantly from its rate before the financial crisis

He said roughly a third of its slowdown could be attributed to a cyclical downturn and two-thirds to domestic factors. The government needs to anticipate obstacles to growth better and adapt its policies faster, he admitted.

As an example, he cited his country’s investment in infrastructure. In response to a big increase in the number of infrastructure projects planned, the government was not able to give regulatory clearances for large projects fast enough in recent years, causing some to stall.

“The government is now working on systems that would make it a lot easier to get this kind of supporting clearance done,” he said.

Ahluwalia, however, noted that major progress on the infrastructure bottleneck might have to wait until after India’s general election in May.

He added that in his view, India could potentially sustain a growth rate of 7 percent. “The question is, how long will it take to get there?” he questioned.

President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Kris Gopalakrishnan, expressed optimism about the prospects of Asian emerging markets.

“There will always be challenges and risks. But when I look at it, the opportunities are huge, and at the macro level, the projection that this will be the Asia century, I believe, will be proven right,” he said.

Chairman of the Asia-Pacific region for Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Dr. Janmejaya Sinha, urged audience members to remain focused on the long-term growth trajectory of emerging Asia and not get caught up in near-term zigzags.

“These mood swings, which go from hubris to helplessness, is just the wrong way to look at this opportunity. Let us go to the trend line and beyond the headline,” he added. (ANI)