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34 {0} Emerging(s) found
    16 April 2021
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    In their spring outlook, the IMF economists expect to see a multi-speed (and incomplete) recovery of the global economy in 2021. Indeed, speed is the key word for 2021 because the emerging countries are racing against time on several fronts. In our eyes, the greatest short-term risks are linked to the race between the rollout of vaccinations and the spread of the pandemic, and between higher food prices and the partial catching-up of revenues for low-income households. If this divergence persists, we could see a rise in social risks, which may have a much more destabilisation capacity than financial risks.
    At the end of the annual “Two Sessions”, China’s major political event, Beijing announced its economic targets for 2021 as well as the priorities of its new five-year plan. By setting this year’s real GDP growth target at simply “more than 6%”, which is lower than forecasts, the authorities are signalling that the economic recovery following the Covid-19 crisis is no longer the main focus of concern. In the short term, they will continue to cautiously tighten monetary policy and gradually scale back fiscal support measures. Above all, the authorities have affirmed their medium-term development strategy, which aims to boost innovation and drastically expand China’s technological independence.
    The economic recovery could be weakened by a second wave of Covid-19 and a fresh surge in inflation. With the government seeking to step up the pace of reforms to support growth over the medium term and improve the business environment, the number of protests against the moves is mounting, with protestors’ ire directed particularly at the privatisations that the government is counting on to cut its budget deficit. In the banking sector, banks currently are able to deal with the expected rise in credit risk. Nevertheless, in order to support a resumption of lending growth, a new injection of capital into state-owned banks has already been planned, alongside the creation of a defeasance structure.
    Having contracted by 2.1% in 2020, the Indonesian economy is likely to see only a modest recovery in 2021. Domestic demand is struggling to recover. Consumer sentiment remains weak and any resurgence in the pandemic could undermine the recovery, at a time when a very low percentage of the population has been vaccinated. Moreover, despite the highly expansionary monetary policy, bank lending has continued on its downward trend. The financial position of Indonesian companies prior to the Covid-19 crisis was more fragile than those of ASEAN peers, and they are likely to seek to consolidate their positions rather than invest in an uncertain future. The banking sector remains solid and well-placed to deal with an expected increase in credit risk. 
    After a severe recession in 2020, economic growth will rebound moderately in 2021-2022. The main growth engines – private consumption and the tourism industry – were weakened by the abrupt shutdown of economic activity as of Q2 2020, and the dynamics of the recovery will continue to depend on the evolution of the health situation. As in 2020, the authorities will take advantage of the comfortable manoeuvring room built up prior to the crisis to provide economic support. In the medium to long term, political tensions, exacerbated by the economic crisis, will continue to strain Thailand’s long-term growth potential.
    The health crisis continues to worsen – undermining the economy to a point of entertaining a recessionary risk in the first half of 2021. In this context, confidence has plummeted and financial markets have retreated. The vaccination campaign – after facing significant logistical challenges – has finally begun to accelerate since mid-March and with the concomitant introduction of new restrictive measures, the hope is that the epidemic curve will reach an inflection point over the next two months. Faced with rising inflation and inflation expectations, the Central Bank launched its monetary tightening cycle, which – against a backdrop of slowing economic activity and a high sovereign interest burden – has exacerbated budgetary pressures and risks. Although weakened by the crisis, financial soundness indicators of the banking sector remain very favourable.
    Thanks to a strong Q4 rebound, the contraction in real GDP was limited to 8.2% in 2020, the public deficit did not swell as much as expected, and 2021 growth prospects were given a boost. Yet the recovery is still fragile: private consumption and investment have both taken a lasting hit from the 2020 crisis, and the export sector will not benefit fully from the expected rebound in US growth. The crisis also exacerbated concerns about the vulnerability of public finances and the decline in investment, which will undermine medium to long-term growth prospects.
    The November 2020 announcement that monetary policy would move in a new direction had tamed financial tensions. However, as the Central Bank Governor was removed in March 2021, uncertainty came back. Exchange rate depreciation pressures have reappeared and interest rates and risk premiums have risen. Growth support will be the top policy priority, but at the price of maintaining significant macroeconomic imbalances. Credit risk is not reflected into the non-performing loan ratio but the forbearance period which is allowing the postponement of their reporting will end at mid-2021. The observed corporate investment recovery is welcomed, as a precondition to improve potential growth, but other conditions such as productivity growth are still missing.
    The country weathered the difficulties of 2020 relatively well, notwithstanding the recession that Covid-19 produced and the drying up of private capital inflows. Thanks to the improvement in the terms of trade, the current account surplus was sufficient to balance the existing gap. Over recent years, Ukraine has been able to improve its fiscal management, which helped to secure the support of international financial institutions. The challenge for the months ahead lies in a resumption of capital inflows and in the planned reforms to encourage investment and increase potential growth. It will be important to keep an eye on reforms in the banking sector, which relate both to the consolidation of the sector and to the improvement of the prudential and supervisory framework.
    The Egyptian economy proved to be resilient last year. Economic growth remained positive thanks to fiscal support, and the main macroeconomic metrics did not deteriorate significantly thanks notably to international support. The good fiscal performance was noteworthy, and will help maintain the attractiveness of Egyptian debt. This said, it would be wise to remain cautious. On the one hand, the rate of vaccination is slow and the pandemic is still active; on the other hand, the external accounts remain vulnerable, and the improvement in the external energy balance seen in 2020 may not continue in the short term.
    The Qatari economy began 2021 under relatively favourable conditions: thought the regional embargo ended, the Covid-19 pandemic is still active. Despite the fall in oil prices in 2020, the fiscal and current account deficits remained limited. Over the medium term, the development of new gas export capacity should further strengthen an already solid macroeconomic position. The main source of vulnerability remains banks’ external indebtedness, which is very high and continues to grow as the economy’s expansion accelerates. However, government support is guaranteed, and the external position of the banks should be restored as a result of the expected slowdown in lending and increase in deposits.
    So far, the economy has posted a fairly good resilience to the pandemic shock. Although economic growth slowed sharply in 2020, it nonetheless remained in positive territory. Above all, the economy is expected to rebound strongly this year, buoyed by domestic demand and easing political tensions after a busy electoral calendar. The country’s debt situation is also not as alarming compared to the other African countries. Even so, the sharp deterioration in public finances in 2020 calls for fiscal consolidation, which could prove to be difficult without a sustainable increase in fiscal revenue. This could weigh on the growth prospects of an economy that is increasingly dependent on public investment. 
    Although Kenya was spared a recession in 2020, the Covid-19 shock exacerbated the country’s economic vulnerabilities. The risk of excessive public debt is especially high, and despite financial support provided by multilateral and bilateral creditors, budget management will remain a big challenge in the short and medium terms. The level and structure of the debt expose the government to solvency risk. Fortunately, reforms are expected to reduce this risk, and the IMF financing programme recently granted to the Kenyan authorities should support these efforts and help reassure non-resident investors.
    19 January 2021
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    As the new year gets underway, emerging countries are benefiting from a combination of favourable factors for a recovery (catching-up movements in foreign trade, a weak dollar, rising commodity prices, and domestic financing costs that are lower than pre-crisis levels). Yet lots of uncertainty and threats remain: the rollout of vaccination campaigns, the risk of a surge in insolvency cases among the poorest countries, despite financial support from international institutions and official creditors, and a rise in non-performing loans in banking systems as of 2021. The main risk in the medium term is the combination of a probable loss of growth potential due to the pandemic and the private sector’s record-high debt burden.
    Economic growth reached 2.3% in 2020. Activity has rebounded rapidly since March and the recovery has gradually spread from industry to services. Infrastructure and real estate projects continue to drive investment, but it is also beginning to strengthen in the manufacturing sector, encouraged by solid export performance. Private consumption is still lagging, but yet has picked up vigorously since the summer. Whereas fiscal policy should continue to be growth-supportive in the short term, the monetary authorities are expected to adjust their priorities. Credit conditions should be tightened slowly, especially via the introduction of new prudential rules. Corporate defaults are likely to increase alongside efforts to clean up the financial sector
    The economy has rebounded strongly since July, driven by the recovery in industry, which then spread to the services sector starting in October. Although the recovery still seems to be fragile, the central bank has raised its growth forecast for fiscal year 2020/2021 to -7.5%. Fiscal year 2021/2022 is expected to see a major automatic rebound in growth. Lacking the means to support growth through a fiscal stimulus package, the government has set out to create a more propitious environment for investment that would enable medium-term growth to return to a pace of about 7%. The latest reforms are working in this direction. Yet passing reform measures does not guarantee that they will be implemented, much less that they will be successful.  
    Malaysia is one of the emerging Asian countries hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis. Although a recovery is underway, it is bound to be hampered by new lockdowns in Q4 2020 and January 2021. Public finances have deteriorated sharply, but the government does not seem inclined to pursue fiscal consolidation. It is giving priority to the economic recovery and support for the most fragile households. The public debt ratio will continue to deteriorate, and in December, the rating agency Fitch downgraded Malaysia’s sovereign rating. Yet refinancing risks are moderate: the debt structure is not very risky and the country has a large domestic bond market. Malaysia will continue to report a current account surplus and has a solid banking sector.
    The Covid-19 epidemic was well controlled last year and lockdown was swiftly eased. Productive activity has rebounded vigorously since May, notably driven by a solid recovery in exports. Fiscal support measures have been moderate, primarily based on the accelerated implementation of already-planned investment projects. In the end, economic growth and macroeconomic balances were only moderately and temporarily affected in 2020. However, there remains a weak link in the economy: banks are insufficiently capitalised while corporates, especially state-owned enterprises, are excessively indebted. Some of these institutions could be severely weakened when monetary support measures come to an end in 2021.
    An active economic policy has helped attenuate the magnitude of the recessionary shock in 2020. The recovery in Q3 was vigorous and was prolonged into Q4. However, the economy showed signs of slowing down towards year-end. Brazil’s external vulnerability did not deteriorate despite high volatility of both portfolio and direct investments as well as a sharp depreciation of the real in 2020. In 2021, the economy will benefit from the recovery in commodity prices and the maintenance of accommodative measures on the monetary side. However, the resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic coupled with delays in rolling out vaccinations as well as uncertainty regarding the fiscal consolidation process and the lack of progress on reforms are likely to be sources of stress in financial markets and potential destabilising forces for the recovery.
    Peru is one of the Latin American countries to have suffered most from the Covid-19 crisis. After a sharp contraction in Q2 2020, the recovery that began in Q3 has continued. This said, economic activity is unlikely to regain its pre-crisis level before the end of 2022. The economic contraction and the massive stimulus programme introduced by the government have hit public finances, but the deterioration is likely to remain manageable, for the short term at least. However, the deterioration of the political climate seen over the past few years is affecting the medium-term outlook.
    Fiscal support and the resilience of exports helped limit the economic recession in 2020. A strong recovery is likely in 2021, thanks primarily to a rapid vaccination campaign. The shekel has strengthened on the back of a growing current account surplus and massive capital inflows. The situation for public finances is more uncertain. In addition to the structural deterioration of recent years, the lack of a budget law against a background of repeated government instability is not helpful for budget consolidation. Although solid solvency indicators eliminate any short-term risk, a lack of reforms could weigh on potential growth over the medium to long term.
    The scenario of a partial and still fragile economic recovery is confirmed against a backdrop of a spreading pandemic at end-2020. Household consumption is the only component that managed to contribute to growth, but it could run out of steam with the upsurge in inflation. The recovery is expected to broaden in 2021, thanks to the expected resumption of production in the extractive industries, higher oil prices and the improvement in business confidence in the manufacturing sector. Yet monetary and fiscal supports will be relatively small. Public finances have been fairly resilient, and foreign reserves have consolidated despite capital outflows, since the rouble served as the adjustment variable. According to the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), the banks have sufficient reserves to cover the entire amount of restructured loans.
    The second wave of Covid-19 that swept Poland in Q4 2020 was more severe than the first wave in Q2 2020. In contrast, economic growth was not hit nearly as hard thanks to the resilience of industrial output and demand (exports and household consumption). The authorities’ stimulus measures combined with industry’s competitiveness – which was not undermined much by the pandemic – bolstered growth, and the trade surplus increased. Against the background, a somewhat weak zloty is more a choice than a by-product of deteriorated fundamentals. The European budget agreement, as Poland is one of the main beneficiaries of the Recovery Plan, should provide additional support for growth.
    Economic growth experienced several short-lived boom-bust wild swings in 2020, amplified by trade openness and the severity of the second wave of Covid-19 in the fall. However, the recovery in the 3rd quarter proved strong. Industrial production and exports both performed well, boosted by a stable exchange rate (and substantial foreign currency reserves). In addition, thanks to very modest debt levels, the government was able to offer rapid and substantial support to the economy.
    Ethiopia is expected to report its lowest growth rate since 2003. Although the population has been relatively spared by the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cyclical economic environment has deteriorated sharply. The country has been hard hit by both a domestic shock and a decline in external revenues, which is squeezing its structurally low foreign reserves. Support from multilateral creditors will limit liquidity risk in the short term, but the current situation largely underscores the need for reforms. At the same time, political risk is rising with the emergence of socio-political tensions that pose significant challenges for Ethiopia’s political and economic stability.
    With real GDP contracting by 8.5% in 2020, Tunisia was one of the region’s most severely hit economies. The prospects of a recovery are highly uncertain. The economy is threatened by the resurgence of the pandemic, but the government no longer has the manoeuvring room that it had in 2020. The budget deficit and public debt have soared to alarming levels, which calls for a difficult consolidation of public finances. Although FX reserves have been stable, the country’s external vulnerability is growing. The pandemic’s shock has aggravated a structural deterioration in fundamentals. This could have lasting consequences.
    06 October 2020
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    The recovery in economic activity that began at the end of the spring continued through the summer, with China leading the way, and oil and metals prices have picked up. But doubts are emerging as the pace of the recovery seems to be slowing, as reflected by exports recent loss of momentum. Above all, there are currently worries regarding the persistence of the pandemic and the risk of lockdown extensions or even new lockdowns in several countries. There are, however, some factors of support: continued easing of monetary policies, market tolerance of rising budget deficits and a reduction in the debt of the most vulnerable countries by official lenders. However, the leverage of those factors should not be overstated.
    The economy continues to recover. Initially driven by a rebound in industrial production and investment, the recovery broadened over the summer months. Exports have rebounded and activity has also picked up in the services sector. Yet it continues to be strained by the timid rebound in household consumption, which is far from returning to normal levels. The unemployment rate began to fall right again after the end of lockdown measures, but this decline has been accompanied by an increase in precarious jobs and large disparities, with the unskilled and young college graduates being particularly hard hit.
    Once again, South Korea seems to be withstanding the crisis better than developed nations generally. The effective management of the health crisis and the government’s massive stimulus package paved the way to a shallower recession than in other countries in the first half of 2020. However, the new social distancing measures introduced at the end of August and the persistent weakness of exports will hold back growth over the coming months. In the short to medium term, macroeconomic fundamentals are likely to remain very solid: government deficit and debt levels remain modest, inflation is under control and external vulnerability is very low.
    Between April and June 2020, India’s economy contracted by nearly 24% compared to the same period last year. This unprecedented contraction can be attributed to the collapse of domestic demand. Although the economy has rebounded since June, it is still fragile and well below pre-crisis levels, prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The central bank and government did not have much support capacity, but even this has been eroded by higher prices and a drop-off in fiscal revenue. Public debt is expected to swell to nearly 89% of GDP, and will strain the country’s future development projects, especially given that government spending contributed to nearly 30% of growth last year.
    For the first time since the 1998 crisis, Indonesia is expected to enter recession in 2020. In Q2 2020, the economy contracted by more than 5%, and the recovery should be slow. Domestic demand is struggling to pick up, and Jakarta has just been put under a partial lockdown again. Fiscal support has been slow in coming: planned fiscal spending still hasn’t materialised in the first seven months of the year. Even so, the deficit is under control and the central bank is acting as the lender of last resort. In H2 2020, the government hopes to consolidate the recovery via a massive support package for low-income households. Even though inflation is under tight control, the poverty rate could reach 11.6% according to the World Bank (vs 9.2% in 2019).
    The epidemic remains in full swing, but has shown some signs of deceleration. The recovery in Q3 has been stronger than expected. However, the picture varies considerably from one sector to the next. The central bank has paused its monetary easing cycle for the first time since mid-2019. At the same time, it has adopted a more active communication stance through the embracement of forward guidance. The emergency aid programme – which will push the budget deficit to a record high – has meanwhile helped President Bolsonaro witness a resurgence in popularity.  Negotiations over the 2021 budget are likely to crystallise tensions across the executive and Congress. Difficult choices lie ahead as the authorities will need to arbitrate between supporting the most vulnerable and resuming the process of fiscal consolidation. The currency, over and above its weakness, continues to suffer from considerable volatility. The return of foreign investors to Brazilian markets remains timid overall.
    The health crisis has slammed an economy that was already suffering from more than two years of recession. GDP will probably contract by more than 10% in 2020. With the technical rebound that began in late Q2 and the signing of a public debt restructuring agreement, the country should manage to pull out of recession in the second half. Yet financial instability persists with the erosion of foreign reserves, the stark disconnection between official and parallel exchange rates and expectations of surging inflation. The authorities have tightened forex controls again. IMF support is essential for financial stability but might not suffice for a sustainable recovery.
    The Hungarian economy was hit particularly hard by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2nd quarter of 2020, due to the weight of exports in its GDP. The shock seems to have been absorbed relatively well, with the government and central bank focusing on supporting the labour market and introducing the necessary moratoriums on interest payments and loan repayments. The stimulus measures introduced have been constrained in particular by the need to avoid an excessive depreciation of the forint. The reduction in government debt, interrupted this year, is likely to get back on track quickly, within the framework of an unchanged strategy: maintaining a moderate corporate tax in order to continue to attract foreign investment in the manufacturing sector.
    Since late spring, Turkey has enjoyed a rapid, buoyant recovery. This is rather typical for an economy regularly hit by external shocks that are magnified by capital outflows. Turkey has managed to bounce back yet again thanks to strong economic policy support. The bad news is that it is accumulating several imbalances, including another significant current account deficit and a sharp increase in credit growth, which is accelerating faster than during previous recovery phases. These two factors, which put downside pressure on the lira while driving up inflation, signal a deterioration in the quality of growth and imply higher debt ratios.
    The Egyptian economy has performed pretty well in the face of the pandemic. Activity has been bolstered by major public investment projects, whilst inflation has fallen well below the central bank’s target. The fiscal and current account deficits are likely to increase, but international support and access to capital markets at favourable conditions have contributed to a macroeconomic stabilisation. The continuation of a high policy rate at the central bank has helped keep the Egyptian market attractive to international investors. Thanks to injections of liquidity, lending remains strong, although this increases the exposure of banks to sovereign debt and credit risk in an increasingly uncertain environment.
    Lebanese GDP could fall by a quarter in 2020 under the combined effect of the deep economic crisis that has taken place since 2019 and the Beirut port explosion. In the short term, hopes of a recovery are limited. The economic system that closely links the public finances, commercial banks and the central bank appears to be on its last legs. The system of multiple exchange rates will not prevent the exhaustion of foreign currency reserves in the near future. Meanwhile, the government, which is in default on its foreign currency debt, has been forced to monetize its fiscal deficit. Commercial banks have built up record exposure to sovereign debt and substantial external liabilities.
    Despite rapid support measures, the economy will not escape a severe recession this year. With the abrupt halting of tourism activity, the drop-off in exports to Europe and the collapse of domestic demand in Q2, GDP will contract by about 6%. Although there are high hopes that a good agricultural harvest will fuel a rebound in 2021, the recovery of non-agricultural activities will take time. In contrast, Morocco’s macroeconomic stability does not seem to be threatened. But growing pressure on public finances leaves the authorities very little manoeuvring room.
    With the country in recession for the fifth consecutive year (latest estimates put the contraction in 2020 at 4%), the current crisis is acting as a catalyst for existing weaknesses and further damaging the country’s economic prospects. The combined effect of lower oil prices and production and the depreciation of the currency has increased pressure on the capacity for external financing and the sustainability of Angola’s debt. The country has seen a significant decline in its currency reserves, which could become insufficient as the financing deficit increases. Currently under negotiation, the expected support of bilateral creditors (most notably China) is becoming crucial.  
    23 July 2020
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    Since mid-April, calm has been restored in the financial markets of emerging economies. In most countries, exchange rates have begun to appreciate again, while money market rates and bond yields have eased thanks to the general easing of policy rates and greater use of quantitative easing by national central banks, external financial support, and the return of portfolio investment. As is often the case, the equity markets have exuberantly – and prematurely – welcomed this return to normal. Indeed, the economic recovery seems to be taking shape, but it remains very fragile.
    The economy has been recovering gradually since March, and the rebound in real GDP was strong enough in Q2 2020 to enable it to recover rapidly the ground lost in Q1. Yet the shock triggered by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown measures has severely weakened some sectors (such as export-oriented industries), some corporates (notably micro-enterprises and SMEs) and some households (especially low-income earners). The central bank has cautiously eased credit conditions and the government has introduced a stimulus plan estimated at about 5 points of GDP for 2020. Public investment in infrastructure projects remains the instrument of choice, but direct support to corporates and households is also expected to boost private demand.
    India should report an unprecedented contraction in real GDP this year. The big question is how strong will it rebound thereafter? The rating agencies have begun to doubt whether India will return to its potential growth rate in the years ahead because its economic slowdown began much earlier than the Covid-19 crisis. India’s slowdown dates back at least to 2018, and could even be an extension of the 2009 financial crisis. Since 2014, real GDP growth seems to have been driven solely by positive external shocks, creating the illusion of robust growth. Yet the banking sector is still much too fragile to restore GDP to the growth rates of the past.
    While the Covid-19 epidemic continues to spread, restrictions have started to ease in parts of the country. A severe contraction of economic activity is anticipated in Q2 with the latest data indicating that a low point was reached in April. A rapid recovery of economic activity will be constrained by the economy’s weak growth engines, especially investment. Fiscal and monetary policy measures have continued to be deployed or extended to help cushion the impact of the crisis. While the currency continues to exhibit weakness and fiscal balances keep deteriorating, continued monetary easing has helped boost the stock market.
    The Russian economy is more solid today than it was five years ago. After the 2014-15 crisis, the government managed to rebuild its sovereign wealth fund, which is now enabling it to offset the loss of oil revenue. Public finances are less dependent on oil revenues, thanks to the VAT increase in 2019, and the government should have no trouble meeting its short-term commitments. Yet lockdown restrictions and the collapse of commodity prices will have a big impact on both growth and the banking sector, which is still fragile, although it is less vulnerable to a forex shock.
    The Polish economy has to smooth the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit not only through the decline in foreign demand but also through the lockdown’s impact on domestic consumption. Yet the country has enough policy leeway to do so, thanks notably to a reasonable level of public debt before the slowdown began. GDP is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels before mid-2021, which is bound to curb investment. Thereafter, Poland is expected to return to its robust growth trajectory since its strengths remain intact (competitiveness, labour supply, low wage costs and productivity gains), which have transformed the country into the European Union’s 5th biggest industrial sector.
    Ukraine is usually quite prone to boom bust cycles. Yet high volatility has not allowed to stabilize growth towards a higher level, and fickle capital inflows have reinforced the importance of funding from foreign institutions, notably from the IMF and the European Union. Such official financing, coupled with the structural progress it has made in recent years, seem to have helped the country to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, at least for the moment, with fewer negative financial consequences than initially feared. Strong foreign demand for Ukraine’s grain, lower oil prices and the foreign financing are all favourable factors that have helped the country weather the crisis, and raise hopes for a rapid economic recovery once the Covid-19 crisis is over.
    Slovenia’s economy is in a relatively favourable position to face the Covid-19 crisis. The past three years were marked by robust growth, fiscal surpluses and the gradual clean-up of bank balance sheets. Yet as a small, open economy closely tied to the European Union, Slovenia could be significantly impacted by the crisis. European fiscal and monetary support as well as healthy public finances should soften the impact of the crisis on public finances and growth prospects.
    Growth prospects are deteriorating constantly in Mexico. In the short term, several factors are weakening the economy, including the impact of lockdown restrictions on domestic demand, the decline in oil prices, the disruption of supply chains and sluggish external demand. Without a fiscal stimulus package, the support measures announced by the central bank will not suffice to offset the enormous shock. In the medium term, the economy’s capacity to rebound is limited. The downturn in the business climate and other pre-crisis factors that contributed to the slowdown, coupled with the government’s contradictory signals, will continue to weigh on investment.
    The economic rebound expected in H2 2020 has been slow in the making. For the moment, the pandemic seems to be under control, and there have already been several phases of reopening, but domestic demand remains sluggish. Exports also fell sharply again in May. Above all, it is the absence of international tourists that is straining growth prospects, at least in the short term, because fiscal and monetary support measures – though massive – will not suffice to totally absorb the shock. As a result, the recovery is likely to be more restrained than in the other Asian countries.
    The massive use of expatriate workers, a key element in the Gulf states’ economic models, has been called into question by the economic recession, widening budget deficits and employment nationalisation programmes, particularly in the public sector. The construction and services sectors, which also depend massively on foreign workers, are suffering as a result of cuts in public spending. However, it is far from certain that the expected reduction in expatriate employment in the short term will result in a significant and lasting increase in employment for Gulf nationals. The Gulf states are likely to have difficulties to go without foreign labour.
    The shock triggered by the Covid-19 epidemic has been violent and has hit an already very fragile economy. Over the past five years, economic growth has averaged only 0.8% and the country has slipped into recession since mid-2019. The economic contraction and the deterioration in public finances will be on an unprecedented scale in 2020. Real GDP may well not return to its pre-crisis level before 2025. The government has been adept in adjusting its financing strategy to cover its needs, which have increased steeply following the introduction of the fiscal stimulus plan. The support expected from multilateral lenders in the short term is reassuring, but trends in government debt will continue to be a concern over the medium term.
    Although the pandemic is well contained from a health perspective, the Covid-19 crisis combined with the downturn in oil prices will have severe economic consequences. With no real fiscal leeway, the government has implemented a very modest economic stimulus plan, while massive capital outflows and the collapse of oil exports have fuelled the rapid erosion of foreign reserves, bringing the naira under pressure. The deterioration in public and external accounts despite support from donor funds hampers any prospects of a recovery. Just four years after the last recession, real GDP is expected to contract significantly again in 2020. Without an upturn in oil prices, the rebound will be mild in 2021.
    14 April 2020
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    Emerging countries have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic even though the official number of confirmed cases and deaths (excluding China) is still low compared to the figures for the developed countries. A wave of slowdowns and recessions is only just beginning, and the economic fallout will probably spread beyond 2020, because the real shock (shutdown of business due to confinement measures) is compounded by a financial shock and commodity price shock. Capital outflows and the freeze on bond issues in international markets increases refinancing risk in US dollars. Preventative safety nets are being set up to reduce defaults, but the solution for the most vulnerable countries is probably a sovereign debt moratorium or a debt relief.
    China’s population and its economy were the first to be struck by the coronavirus epidemic. Activity contracted abruptly during the month of February before rebounding thereafter at a very gradual pace. Although the situation on the supply side is expected to return to normal in Q2, the demand shock will persist. Domestic investment and consumption will suffer from the effects of lost household and corporate revenues while world demand is falling. The authorities still have substantial resources to intervene to help restart the economy. Central government finances are not threatened. However, after the shock to GDP growth, the expected upsurge in domestic debt ratios will once again aggravate vulnerabilities in the financial sector.
    India was not spared the coronavirus pandemic. The economic slowdown will be all the more severe with a protracted lockdown of the population. The government also lacks the fiscal capacity of the other Asian countries to bolster its economy. Already strained by the economic slowdown of the past two years, public finances are bound to deteriorate further. Public debt could reach 75% of GDP by 2022. Refinancing risks are low, but the cost of borrowing could rise for the long term if the rating agencies were to sanction its public debt and deficit overruns. India still has sufficient foreign reserves to cover its short-term liabilities.
    The massive economic shock resulting from the coronavirus sanitary crisis will delay Brazil’s economic recovery, suspend the process of fiscal consolidation and stall progress on reforms. While the extent of the recessionary shock remains highly uncertain, measures – both fiscal and monetary – have been taken to mitigate the impact of confinement measures on economic activity, prevent a sharp upturn in unemployment and ensure that tensions over liquidity do not materialize into solvency problems. Intervention capacities on the monetary side are ample and contrast with those on the fiscal side, which are more limited due to the fragilities of public accounts. Brazil’s financial markets, which came under significant stress in Q1, will continue to be challenged.
    The Turkish economy is facing problems of a sort it has dealt with in the past: a global crisis, that will trigger a sharp fall in exports, coupled with a contraction of external financing. Unlike in 2018, Turkey’s economy does not appear to be overheating, whilst the fall in oil prices and the emergence of a current account surplus are two factors that will reduce the risk. That said, the relatively weak levels of currency reserves, the high level of external debt and the recent rise in non-performing loans are all significant risk factors. In front of the current shock, the economic policy response will have to address foreign currency liquidity needs properly in a context of dwindling capital flows.
    Romania’s economy has become gradually unbalanced in recent years, ending 2019 with significant twin deficits, i.e. both a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. An accommodative fiscal policy has stimulated growth and should continue to do so. Even so, Romania will not avoid a contagion effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout. The country is bound to slip into recession even though growth has already dwindled. Though foreign currency liquidity is still sufficient, its relatively low level could constrain monetary policy: a stable exchange rate is key for an economy that still has a significant amount of euro-denominated debt, albeit much less than before.
    The COVID-19 crisis will have a huge impact on an economy that was already weakened slightly by the slowdown in global trade in 2019. Yet Indonesia’s macroeconomic fundamentals are strong: its public finances are solid, the banking sector is robust and both companies and households have very little debt. The country has sufficient foreign reserves to cover its short-term financing needs. Yet the rupiah is bound to remain under fierce downward pressure: the current account deficit is only partially financed by foreign direct investment, and capital outflows have reached unprecedented levels since 31 January.
    The coronavirus crisis has hit a fast-growing economy, which expanded by more than 6% year-on-year in H2 2019 and looked set to continue at the same pace in 2020. The pandemic and the very strict lockdown imposed by the Duterte government will cause all the engines of growth to seize up: production will stop in the country’s economic centre, the fall in domestic demand will be exacerbated by reductions in remittances from workers abroad and losses in the informal economy, tourism will collapse and exports of goods and services will follow suit. This is a substantial shock, but the strong macroeconomic fundamentals and the modest level of government debt give the authorities scope to introduce support measures.
    The Covid-19 pandemic strikes an economy that has already been weakened by several quarters of decline in merchandise exports, tourism, private consumption and investment. Since February, the government has launched a major fiscal stimulus plan representing about 10% of GDP. The plan includes direct support measures in favour of corporates and households. Additional structural measures will be needed going forward, in order to fuel a sustainable rebound in private demand and bolster medium-term economic growth prospects. Thanks to abundant fiscal reserves and minimal debt, the government has comfortable manoeuvring room to pursue an expansionist policy for several years to come.
    The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Egyptian economy will be significant and will result in a sharp economic growth slowdown this year. Growth is nevertheless likely to remain positive. In the short term, the expected deterioration in public finances is sustainable, and the government can deal with a temporary downturn in international investors’ appetite for Egyptian debt. Foreign currency liquidity across the whole banking system has improved significantly in recent months, supporting the pound in the currency market. As a result, the financing of the current account deficit, repayment of foreign debt and the ability to cover massive capital outflows are all guaranteed for the short term.
    As the most diversified economy of the Gulf countries and a major oil producer, the United Arab Emirates faces a double shock: the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and plummeting oil prices. The current situation risks accelerating the real estate market crisis in Dubai, which has been developing for several years, eroding the financial health of companies in the construction and services sectors. As credit risk rises, it will place a negative strain on banks. Although public finances seem healthy enough to handle the decline in oil revenues, public debt is bound to rise. The UAE’s solid external position guarantees the dirham’s peg to the US dollar.
    The Moroccan economy will see significant consequences from the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism has been at a standstill since March and will remain so until May at the earliest. The automotive sector and remittances from the Moroccan diaspora will also be hit by the crisis in Europe. However, and provided that the situation improves in the second half of the year, Morocco should be able to avoid recession. Macroeconomic fundamentals are solid and the country will benefit from a substantial fall in oil imports. Moreover, the authorities have reacted swiftly to dampen the shock.  
    Kenya’s real GDP growth was subdued last year and it will come under stress in 2020 due to coronavirus outbreak effects. The lower GDP growth will further constrain the fiscal policy space whereas the country’s forex receipts are also weakened by adverse climatic conditions. While political rivalries continue to complicate the implementation of fiscal policy, failure to reduce budget deficits will challenge the sovereign’s debt solvency in the medium term. Meanwhile, monetary policy easing and emergency measures in the banking sector could hamper banking sector prospects, which had started to improve following the recent removal of the interest-rate cap law.  
    28 January 2020
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    The end of the CFA franc and its replacement with the eco scheduled for next June address the legitimate desire of WAEMU member countries to manage what is already their single currency. Governance of the currency regime will change as the French Treasury pulls out of WAEMU entities, although it will still serve as the lender of last resort. Though the euro peg will limit monetary policy’s independence, it is necessary to shore up the macroeconomic stability of WAEMU, which is still fragile.
    In 2019, economic growth slowed to 6.1%. Total exports contracted and domestic demand continued to weaken. The year 2020 is getting off to a better start as activity shows a few signs of recovering and a preliminary trade agreement was just signed with the United States. Yet economic growth prospects are still looking downbeat in 2020. The rebalancing of China’s growth sources is proving to be a long and hard process, and economic policy is increasingly complex to manage. Faced with this situation, Beijing might decide to give new impetus to the structural reform process, the only solution that will maintain the newfound optimism and boost economic prospects in the medium term.
    India’s real GDP growth remains far below its long-term potential, and economic indicators do not suggest a significant turnaround in the short term. The government has little manoeuvring room to stimulate the economy. In the first eight months of the fiscal year, the budget deficit already amounted to 115% of the full-year target, and the central bank must deal with rising inflationary pressures, which are hampering its monetary easing policy (which is not very effective anyway). The prospects of materially lower economic growth has led the rating agency Moody’s to downgrade its outlook to negative. Yet it is the financing of the economy as a whole that is at stake.
    Despite a more challenging global environment and a deterioration in the country’s external accounts, Brazil’s economic recovery is gaining some traction on the back of a strengthening domestic demand. In 2020, GDP growth is forecast to improve but questions remain nonetheless regarding the economy’s ability to build up and keep up momentum. The easing of monetary and financial conditions should help support the credit market but should continue to have a weakening impact on the currency. During his first year in office, President Jair Bolsonaro’s losses in terms of approval ratings contrast with his government’s notable gains on the public finance front.  
    In 2019, despite weak growth and a drop in oil revenues, Russia’s macroeconomic fundamentals remained sound. This said, growth prospects remain weak despite disinflation and a relaxation of monetary policy. Standards of living are still low and the poverty rate has increased. The main threat to economic growth is a tightening of sanctions, even though the sharp increase in foreign exchange reserves, the rebuilding of the national wealth fund and the significant reduction in external debt are all factors that reduce the country’s dollar financing requirement. A toughening of sanctions could hit foreign direct investment, which has fallen sharply over the last five years.    
    Having more or less stagnated in 2019, economic growth is likely to bounce back a little in 2020, boosted by private consumption and net exports. Despite an infrastructure programme that is largely open to the private sector, the outlook for investment is struggling to improve. One year after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, generally known as AMLO, came to power, his economic policy is still hard to decipher. The lack of clarity on energy sector reform is also affecting investor sentiment. At the same time, the risk of a loss of control of the public finances is growing: against a background of low growth, maintaining the austerity programme favoured by the government will prove more difficult from 2021.
    With violent protests rocking Chile since October, the government announced a series of measures to combat inequality and proposed a new version of its pension system reform. Above all, the government signed an agreement with the main opposition parties to draw up a new constitution. Yet persistently fierce political and social tensions are bound to curtail growth. Forecasts for the next two years have been revised largely downwards. The public debt and deficit are also expected to swell over the next five years.
    Taiwan’s export sector has been hit by the slowdown in trade between China and the United States since spring 2018, but it has also benefited rapidly from some of the positive effects of the trade war. US importers have replaced certain Chinese products with goods purchased directly from Taiwan. Plus the US-China trade war provides Taiwanese manufacturing corporates an incentive to leave Mainland China and relocate production in Taiwan, with firm government support. Thanks to these developments, Taiwan’s economy reported stronger than expected growth in 2019, and this trend should continue in 2020.
    Economic growth was still robust in 2019 despite a less favourable local and international environment. Healthy external performances fuelled a significant upturn in the shekel, which in turn curbed inflationary pressures. The start-up of natural gas exports in 2020 should support this trend. Under this environment, the central bank has few policy instruments available. It resumed currency market interventions to try to curb the shekel’s appreciation. After the budget overruns of 2019, however, we do not expect public finances to improve significantly given the high level of political uncertainty.
    Ukrainian growth accelerated rapidly in the first nine months of 2019, driven notably by the agricultural sector and household consumption, the latter being largely stimulated by borrowing. The appreciation of the hryvnia (UAH) triggered a sharp drop in inflation, which facilitated greater monetary policy easing. In the short term, monetary policy support should offset the impact of the global economic slowdown, which has already eroded industrial activity. At the same time, the announcement of a new IMF agreement is bound to reassure foreign investors. The central bank will have to deal with a classic dilemma: it needs to ease monetary policy to curb portfolio investment inflows, but doing so risks triggering a credit boom.
    Non-oil GDP growth rebounded strongly in 2019 after three years of disappointing performances. Household consumption and public sector investment spending are the main growth engines driving the recovery. Economic prospects are still positive in the short term due to the slowdown in the pace of fiscal reforms. The fiscal deficit will remain high, although exceptional one-off income and the transfer of spending to extra-budgetary entities should help hold it down. Potential growth is hampered by the erratic pace of fiscal reforms and the mixed outlook for the oil market.
    With anaemic growth, strong pressure on hydrocarbon revenue and substantial twin deficits, the macroeconomic situation is worrying. For the time being, forex reserves remain at comfortable levels but the speed and scale of their contraction is a major source of vulnerability over the short to medium term. Meanwhile, although certain decisions suggest a change of tack in the government’s position after years of economic protectionism, this progress is still too hesitant given the challenges. It is also of limited effectiveness whilst the business climate has not yet stabilised.
    In order to support economic growth, the Ethiopian government is transitioning from the traditional debt investment strategy to a foreign equity-based one, by privatizing some state-owned entities and removing foreign investments’ barriers. The recently approved IMF program is targeted to address foreign-exchange shortages as well as to contain debt vulnerabilities by strengthening state-owned enterprises management. Nevertheless, the moving towards a more liberalized exchange rate will be done gradually to avoid triggering inflationary pressures and consequent social unrests.
    18 October 2019
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    Growth prospects for the emerging countries in 2020 (EC) have dimmed with the slowdown in export markets and the climate of uncertainty that reigns with the US-China trade war. This uncertainty has increased the volatility of portfolio investments since last summer, although external financing conditions are still favourable on the whole. The majority of countries have also eased monetary policy, and the pass-through of key policy rates to lending rates is functioning rather well. Yet private sector debt has risen sharply over the past decade, which could hamper monetary easing if credit risk were to rise.
    Since Q2 2018, Beijing has let the yuan depreciate against the dollar each time the US has raised its tariffs on imported goods from China. Yet, exchange rate policy as an instrument to support economic activity is expected to be used moderately in the short term. There is also little room to stimulate credit given the excessively high debt levels of the economy and the authorities’ priority on pursuing efforts to clean up the financial system, the public sector and the housing market. Torn between stimulating economic growth and deleveraging, the authorities’ dilemma could get worse if recent fiscal stimulus measures do not have the intended impact on domestic demand, or if the external environment were to deteriorate further.
    Economic activity slowed sharply in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019/2020 and second-half prospects are looking morose, even though the monetary authorities and the government have taken major stimulus measures. Monetary easing resulted in a mild decline in lending rates. The recently announced cut in the corporate tax rate should boost domestic and foreign investment in the medium term, although it will not impact growth much in the short term. Companies might decide to consolidate their position rather than to invest in the midst of a sluggish environment.
    The world’s projectors have descended on Brazil following raging fires in the Amazon forest. President Jair Bolsonaro has come under pressure for his lack of engagement and commitment to protecting the environment. The pace of economic growth is still struggling to accelerate. Confidence indicators are ambivalent while investment remains weak. In the wake of a much less buoyant external environment and low inflation risk, the Central Bank has lowered its policy rate by a cumulative 100 basis points since August. The pension reform was approved in the Senate (first round) but was subject to revisions. Throughout the fall, a number of major reforms should be deployed and privatizations and concessions should accelerate.
    In August, the rating agency Fitch upgraded Russia’s sovereign rating based on its greater resilience to the external environment. The timing might seem surprising considering that Russian GDP growth slowed sharply in H1 2019 and the central bank had to revise its outlook for 2019-2021 downwards again. Even so, the consolidation of Russian fundamentals is undeniable. Currently the main sources of concern are the sharp increase in household lending and the delays in implementing public spending programmes, which should stimulate growth in the medium term.
    In the first half of 2019, Poland’s economic growth held up well to the deterioration of international conditions. Its economic prospects remain relatively positive in the short term despite the downturn in the cycle. The economic model of competitiveness and low labour costs – the foundation of the economic transition of which Poland is a successful example – will be altered by the more generous social policies introduced by the current government. Cyclical and structural factors argue for a slowdown in investment growth over the short and medium term. Of the factors weighing on medium and long-term growth potential, the demographic decline seems the most potent.
    Korea’s economic growth prospects have continued to deteriorate. Recent trade tensions with Japan have come on top of the slowdown of the Chinese economy and in global demand as well as the conflict between the United States and China, hitting exports and investment. The authorities have some scope to stimulate domestic demand. As has been the case for several years now, fiscal policy will remain expansionary in 2020, whilst the central bank could cut its policy rate in the short term. Stimulus measures will nevertheless not be enough to boost economic growth significantly in 2020.
    The Macri government faces an emergency situation in the run up to October’s general elections. Confronted with the erosion of foreign reserves and its failure to roll over short-term bonds, the government was forced to 1) delay payment of Treasury bonds held by local institutional investors, 2) announce debt “re-profiling” and 3) tighten capital controls. After this summer’s primary election, the opposition is largely expected to take power. The future government will have to manage numerous priorities and will probably roll back certain economic liberalisation measures. Yet, it has very little manoeuvring room since it cannot risk breaking off relations with the IMF, which is now its main creditor.
    Although still showing a significant deficit, the trade balance has improved substantially since 2017. It has benefited from a recovery in hydrocarbon exports, whilst the steep depreciation of the pound has had only limited consequences on trade in non-hydrocarbon goods. A substantial share of imports is incompressible, whilst structural constraints weigh on the country’s export potential. Moreover, the moderate appreciation of the pound over the past year has not helped price competitiveness. Measures have been introduced to support exports, but we remain cautious on the prospects for a significant improvement in international trade over the medium term.
    The Qatari economy is struggling to find new sources of growth beyond the hydrocarbon sector. Given the stability of hydrocarbon production and the ending of infrastructure investment cycle, economic growth is likely to hit a record low in 2019. Over the medium term, the introduction of new LNG production capacity is likely to bolster the economy. Against the background of a sluggish economy, inflation is likely to be dragged into negative territory by the on-going fall in real estate prices. This said, the public finances and external accounts remain solid and are likely to improve further as the gas rent increases over the medium term.
    Between difficulties in Europe and a poor agricultural harvest, Morocco faces numerous headwinds. Growth slowed in 2019 for the second consecutive year. Yet domestic demand remains robust, bolstered among other factors by low inflation and an accommodating monetary policy. The authorities are also counting on major privatisation proceeds to soften fiscal consolidation without worsening public debt. Above all, the ongoing development of the automobile industry raises hopes for a rebound in GDP growth in 2020, while lower oil imports should help to reduce the current account deficit.
    The country has renewed relationship with the IMF and obtained its financial support in late 2018. Under the Fund supervision, a mild recovery is expected in the near term but outlook remains weak due to a still tight foreign currency liquidity, a troubled banking system and a poor external environment. Amid higher oil price volatility, Angola continues to rely on the oil sector as a source of economic growth, fiscal income and foreign exchange earnings. Despite supportive measures to attract international investors, important deficiencies keep FDI weak. Some fiscal reforms are also ongoing, but governement room for maneuver remains slim.  
    Economic growth is forecast at only 0.4% in 2019, after averaging 1% a year in 2015-2018. The Ramaphosa government has little manoeuvring room to implement reforms, and strong structural headwinds continue to hamper economic activity. Illustrating the country’s enormous lack of infrastructure, major power outages disrupted activity in the first months of the year. To address the severe financial troubles at Eskom, the state-owned company behind the power outages, the government had to unblock additional funds to come to its rescue. The latest rescue package will accelerate fiscal deficit slippage and further weaken sovereign solvency in the medium term.
    15 July 2019
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    Growth concerns for both advanced countries and emerging countries have picked up again on the back of a collection of new economic data but also — and perhaps more importantly — due to continued high uncertainty. The latter stems from escalating tensions between the US and China over trade. The effects of this confrontation already show up in the Chinese data while in the US, mounting anecdotal evidence also point to its detrimental impact on business and the agricultural sector. The Federal Reserve has turned a corner and indicated that rate cuts are coming, much to the joy of the equity market. The ECB has also changed its message: with risks tilted to the downside and inflation going nowhere, it considers more easing is necessary.
    With the export sector hard hit by US tariff measures and private consumption growth weakening, investment growth has slowed. Although domestic demand could pick up in the short term, bolstered by monetary easing and fiscal stimulus measures, export prospects depend on the outcome of trade talks between Beijing and Washington, which remains highly uncertain. The authorities are bound to use foreign exchange policy sparingly to avoid creating a source of financial instability. Moreover, the current account surplus has improved again in recent months.
    Narendra Modi won a major victory in the general elections, further bolstering his legitimacy. His party won a strong majority in the lower house of parliament and could go on to clinch a majority in the upper house by late 2020 as well, if it manages to maintain power in the upcoming State legislative elections. The country’s economic situation was not very favourable for the Prime Minister as his first mandate came to an end. Economic growth slowed sharply in the last quarter of fiscal year 2018-19 and prospects have been revised downwards. The government must accelerate the reform process in order to increase the pace of job creations and encourage foreign investment.
    The Brazilian economy has hit a wall. Real GDP contracted in the first quarter and signs of weaknesses are accumulating: investment and exports have retracted, while consumer spending – despite being supported by credit – has slowed down. Business and consumer confidence have been hit by the slow progress of the reform agenda as well as the government’s increasingly tarnished image. In a context marked by fears of recession, growth forecasts have been largely adjusted downwards. On a positive note, the Lower House approved the main text of the pension reform bill after a first round of voting. A final and second vote to approve amendments to the bill is expected to take place shortly. The bill is due for analysis in the Senate by August.
    Economic growth slowed sharply in the first 5 months of the year and the central bank has revised downward its forecasts. To boost activity, the monetary authorities lowered their key rates by 25bp in June at a time when inflationary pressures had eased slightly. The government also took major steps to stimulate the potential growth rate, which has declined constantly since 2008-09. Despite the increase in public spending, the government continued to generate a big fiscal surplus in the first 5 months of the year. Although these measures are a step in the right direction, they must be accompanied by the state’s disengagement from the economy and better corporate governance to generate a substantial increase in potential growth.  
    Mired in stagflation, the Turkish economy might have to forego its “stop and go” tradition given the need for deleveraging in the private sector and a less favourable international environment. Disinflation continues but remains vulnerable to bouts of forex volatility. (Geo)political risks and the dollarization of the economy make monetary policy management more complex. A swelling public deficit and uncertainty about the direction of fiscal policy are sources of concern. Reducing the current account deficit will not suffice to reassure investors since capital inflows and foreign exchange reserves are both diminishing faced with the country’s substantial external refinancing needs.
    Counter powers and institutional watchdogs have proved to be quite effective in stemming the government’s business-unfriendly measures and attempts to undermine the Rule of Law. This may pave the way for a more pragmatic and predictable policy stance. Meanwhile, owing to weaker external conditions, a soft landing of the economy is expected in the coming quarters whereas domestic demand should remain dynamic. Despite the lower risk of overheating, macro imbalances must be monitored: inflationary pressure is lingering and the twin deficits may widen even further.  The banking system has recovered from times of trouble, and the softening of the bank tax (and other “emergency taxes”) provided significant relief for the business community.
    Mexico’s economic growth prospects are deteriorating: slower growth in the US, fiscal austerity and low investment levels have dragged down growth in the last two quarters. The slowdown is likely to continue, despite support from consumer spending. The threat of trade tensions with the United States and the lack of clarity in Mexico’s economic policy, as shown by the troubled implementation of its energy reforms, are adversely affecting the investment outlook. The increase in Mexico’s medium-term sovereign risk has been recognised by Fitch, which has cut its sovereign credit rating. Fortunately, external vulnerability is limited.
    Economic growth slowed in Q1 2019, but for the moment the economy seems to be fairly resilient to the decline in world trade. In the short term, dynamic household consumption, stimulated by measures to boost purchasing power, will continue to offset the slowdown in exports. In the longer term, real GDP growth is hardly expected to exceed 5-5.5%. After his recent reelection, it is vital for President Widodo to take advantage of his clear cut victory to push through the necessary reforms to stimulate foreign investment and foster growth, while reducing the country’s dependence on volatile capital flows. Foreign direct investment has declined for the past six quarters and no longer suffices to cover a swelling current account deficit.
    Given its dependence on foreign trade and its integration within Asian supply chains, the Vietnamese economy is squeezed by the weakening in global demand and Sino-American trade tensions. Real GDP, exports and industry have all registered a growth slowdown in recent months. Yet Vietnam could also benefit from China’s troubles: in the short term, it could benefit from some carry-over effects if merchandise is shipped directly to US businesses seeking to avoid the new tariff barriers. Vietnam could also benefit from new foreign direct investment projects of international groups seeking to manufacture outside of China. Moreover, Vietnam’s external financial position is also expected to continue to improve.
    The Saudi economy has recorded weak performances over the past three years. It has had to deal with the combined impact of reforms undertaken as part of the Vision 2030 plan and rather unfavourable oil market conditions, which have eroded public finances. Non-oil GDP growth has been slowing since 2016 due to sluggish domestic demand. Activity should pick up gradually in 2019 thanks to fiscal stimulus efforts and the steady normalisation of the labour market. Under this environment, fiscal deficits are accumulating, but the government’s solvency is still solid.
    Economic growth has slowed for the past three years. OPEC+’s restrictive policy is curbing oil production. Non-oil GDP has been hit by sluggish tourist traffic, which has eroded domestic demand, notably in Dubai. In the short term, in the midst of a slowdown in world trade, the only factor that is boosting growth is the current preparations for Expo 2020. In this environment, consumer price inflation is negative, pulled down by the persistent slump in house prices. Fiscal policy remains cautious and offers little support for growth.
    The Tunisian economy has begun to show signs of stabilisation. Inflation is falling, exchange rate pressures are easing and the government finally managed to uphold its commitment to fiscal consolidation in 2018. Yet the country’s prospects are still very fragile. Although the support of international donors is reassuring, the persistence of major external imbalances exposes the economy to shocks. Bank liquidity is already under pressure due to the tightening of monetary policy, and the high level of public debt calls for further reduction in budget deficits that could be hard to achieve. Above all, economic growth is still sluggish.
    19 April 2019
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    After tightening in Q4-2018, external financing conditions in the emerging countries have eased since the beginning of the year. At the same time, there was a net upturn in non-resident portfolio investments, which shows that investors have a greater appetite for risk after the US Fed announced that it would pursue a cautious and flexible monetary tightening policy, and would pause the reduction of the Fed’s balance sheet. The Institute of International Finance (IIF) even concluded that investors were overexposed to the emerging markets. According to the IMF, so-called passive fund management (ETF and other indexed funds) has either reached critical mass or at least has sufficient leverage to trigger financial market instability.
    Industrial enterprises were squeezed by tighter financing conditions in 2017 and early 2018, and then hit by a slowdown in production and revenue growth last year. These troubles have contributed to the deterioration of their payment capacity, resulting in a surge in defaults in the local bond market. The increase in defaults is an indicator of the financial fragility of corporates, and also seems to be going hand-in-hand with greater differentiation of credit risks by lenders and a certain clean-up of the financial sector. These trends are expected to continue in the short term as the authorities conduct a targeted easing of monetary policy. However, the persistence of the debt excess in the corporate sector will maintain high credit risks in the medium term.
    After nearly five years in power, Narendra Modi’s track record is generally positive, even though the last year of his mandate was tough, with a slowdown in growth in Q3-2018/19. The main growth engines are household consumption, and more recently, private investment, thanks to a healthier corporate financial situation, with the exception of certain sectors. In full-year 2018, external accounts deteriorated slightly as a swelling current account deficit was not offset by foreign direct investment. A big challenge for the next government will be to create a more conducive environment for domestic and non-resident investment.
    The hopes of seeing economic activity pick up following the election of Jair Bolsonaro have fallen. Some indicators point to a possible contraction in economic activity in Q1 2019 at a time where confidence indicators were seemingly improving. Meanwhile, the reform of the pension system – a cornerstone of President Bolsonaro's economic program – was presented to Congress in February where it is currently under discussion. Negotiations will likely be more protracted and be more difficult than originally expected. Indeed, since taking office, the popularity of the Brazilian president has sharply declined and relations between the executive and the legislature have strained.
    Economic growth slowed in the first months of 2019, and is now close to its potential growth rate of 1.5% according to the central bank. A 2-point VAT increase on 1 January has strained real wage growth and sapped household consumption. Inflation (5.2% year-on-year in February) is still below the central bank’s expectations, and the key policy rate was maintained at 7.75% following the March meeting of the monetary policy committee. In the first two months of 2019, investors were attracted by high yields on Russian government bonds, despite the risk of further tightening of US sanctions. The rouble also gained 5% against the US dollar in Q1 2019.
    Economic growth rose to 5.1% in 2018, the highest level since the global financial crisis, with few signs of overheating. In 2019-2020, a less favourable cyclical environment in the eurozone and international trade tensions are bound to strain the Polish economy. Even so, domestic demand will remain relatively solid, bolstered by wage growth driven by labour market pressures as well as by the government’s fiscal stimulus measures announced in February in the run up to European elections in May and legislative elections in October. Under these conditions, inflation is likely to accelerate and the twin deficits to widen, albeit without compromising the country’s macroeconomic stability.
    Singapore is highly vulnerable to contagion effects of US trade hikes on Chinese imports due to its large dependence on tech exports and integration Asian value chains. Exports have contracted since last November and economic growth has slowed. Monetary policy tightening, which started last year, should pause in the short term while the government is expected to increase public spending to support activity. Its fiscal room for maneuver is significant given the strength of public finances. This will also enable the authorities to continue to implement their strategy aimed at stimulating innovation, enhance productivity and improve Singapore’s medium-term economic growth prospects.
    GDP growth rebounded in 2018, buoyed by higher copper prices and the renewed confidence of investors following the election of Sebastian Piñera. Over the course of his mandate, President Piñera’s ambition is to implement fiscal policies that will boost growth and stimulate investment while consolidating public finances, but this could prove to be harder to achieve than expected. The president’s party lacks a congressional majority, and is struggling to push through the fiscal and pension system reforms that have been presented so far. Even so, economic growth prospects will remain rather favourable over the next two years and fiscal consolidation should continue.
    Colombia is coming off a four year macroeconomic adjustment, orchestrated by a large terms of trade shock following the end of the commodity super cycle in 2014. Colombia made a number of policy adjustments to deal with the shock and since 2017, the economy has largely corrected allowing the current account balance to narrow, the fiscal balance to improve and inflation to converge towards the target. However, the intensification of the Venezuelan migrant crisis is challenging fiscal accounts. President Duque’s pledge to make adjustments to the 2016 peace agreement represents a source of risk to the security environment. Meanwhile, the economic slowdown has bottomed out in 2018. Growth is set to accelerate in 2019 but will remain modest.
    Nigeria is having a hard time recovering from the 2014 oil shock. Although the economy has pulled out of recession, growth remains sluggish at 1.9% in 2018. Moreover, the central bank’s recent decision to cut its key policy rate is unlikely to change much. With inflation holding at high levels, it is still too early to anticipate further monetary easing. Defending the currency peg is another constraint at a time when the stability of the external accounts is still fragile. Between soaring debt interest payments and the very low mobilisation of public resources, there is only limited fiscal manoeuvring room. It is hard to imagine a rapid economic turnaround without the intensification of reforms.
    After the appeasement of political tensions in the aftermath of the presidential election rerun, the improved political environment has led to a stabilization of Kenya’s macroeconomic situation. The president's "Big Four" agenda for boosting growth and development spending will shape economic policy during the next five years. But the Kenyan sovereign still faces the serious challenges of fiscal consolidation and the high government debt level that weighs on investors’ appetite for risk. In the meanwhile, the recent High Court suspension of the contentious policy issue of an interest rate cap on bank lending should probably speed up a further agreement with the IMF, which is vital to reduce the borrowing cost burden in a context of increasing financing needs.
    Due to the country’s economic development, the agricultural sector is in relative decline as a share of GDP. Moreover, investment in agriculture is fairly sluggish. Yet the sector still plays a decisive role in food security in Egypt, a country where demographic growth is strong and households are highly sensitive to food prices. The agri-food sector also has an impact on macroeconomic fundamentals, including inflation, foreign trade and the public accounts. For Egypt, like the rest of the region, water resources are a major issue. Yet in Egypt’s case, this issue is especially crucial given the uncertainty that looms over the waters of the Nile and their availability for agriculture in the medium term.
    Real GDP growth will remain weak this year due to expected cut in oil production. Non-oil GDP should get a boost from public expenditure, especially investment spending, and from a slight growth in private consumption. Inflationary pressures could increase slightly but will remain moderate. High fiscal surpluses are funnelled into the sovereign funds, which guarantee the Emirate’s long-term solvency. Faced with this situation, the government has little incentive to set up fiscal consolidation measures. High and recurrent trade and current account surpluses ensure the stability of the dinar.
    24 January 2019
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    In emerging and developing countries, debt has become a recurrent theme that pops up whenever financial conditions tighten and/or economic activity slows. The IMF recently published a blog post on the subject with a rather alarming title. Granted, the combined impact of several factors, namely the downward revision of growth forecasts, a stronger dollar and the normalisation/tightening of monetary policies that have been rather accommodating until now, will increase the weight of the debt burden. Yet not very many countries are at high risk of debt distress, and there is little probability that debt will trigger a systemic credit crisis, even though the risk has increased for the most vulnerable countries.
    Economic growth slowed to 6.6% in 2018 from 6.8% in 2017 and should continue to decelerate in the short term. The extent of the slowdown will depend on the still highly uncertain evolution of trade tensions between China and the United States as well as on Beijing’s counter-cyclical policy measures. However, the central bank’s manoeuvring room is severely constrained by the economy’s excessive debt burden and the threat of capital outflows. Moreover, whereas Beijing has pursued efforts to improve financial regulation and the health of state-owned companies over the past two years, its new priorities increase the risk of interruption in this clean-up process. Faced with this situation, the central government will have to make greater use of fiscal stimulus measures.
    India’s economic growth slowed between July and September 2018, hard hit by the increase in the oil bill. The sharp decline in oil prices since October will ease pressures, at least temporarily, on public finances and the balance of payments, and in turn on the Indian rupee (INR), which depreciated by 9% against the dollar in 2018. In a less favourable economic environment, Narendra Modi’s BJP party lost its hold on three states during recent legislative elections.
    The election of Jair Bolsonaro at the presidency of Brazil has marked a swing to the right, the weakening of traditional political parties and a return of the military to national politics. The new administration faces the challenges of rapidly engaging its fiscal reform, gaining the trust of foreign investors while reconciling ideological differences across its ranks. How society will adjust to a new era of liberal economic policy remains the greatest unknown. Meanwhile, the economy is still recovering at a slow pace. Supply-side indicators continue to show evidence of idle capacity while labour market conditions have yet to markedly improve. Sentiment indicators have shown large upswings in recent months which should help build some momentum in economic activity over Q1 2019.
    In 2018, Russia swung back into growth and a fiscal surplus, increased its current account surplus and created a defeasance structure to clean up the banking sector. The “new” Putin government affirmed its determination to boost the potential growth rate by raising the retirement age and launching a vast public spending programme for the next six years. Yet the economy faces increasing short-term risks. Monetary tightening and the 1 January VAT increase could hamper growth. There is also the risk of tighter US sanctions, which could place more downward pressure on the rouble.    
    With the approach of municipal elections on 31 March, which will be another key test for the government, major manoeuvres have been launched on both the macroeconomic and geopolitical fronts to stimulate activity and advance a foreign policy agenda (notably in Syria) at the expense of diplomatic tensions with the US. The financial strain has soothed since the currency crisis in August 2018, but cyclical conditions have deteriorated. We seem to be heading for a recession scenario lasting several quarters, with the financial weakness of many non-financial corporates being a main concern. The rapid narrowing in the current account deficit and the disinflationary process initiated in recent months attest to the scope of the macroeconomic currently underway.
    Hungary’s macroeconomic situation provides a good illustration of how Central Europe is flourishing economically, but has jettisoned some of the principles of liberal democracy, which is the crucible of the European Union. Hungary’s real GDP growth is estimated at an average of 4.5% in 2018, the highest level since 2004 and higher than its long-term potential. Endogenous and exogenous factors announce a downturn in the economic cycle in the quarters ahead. Yet there is nothing alarming about the expected deterioration in macroeconomic fundamentals in the short to medium term.
    Economic growth in Serbia has accelerated since 2017, fuelled by consumption and investment. Inflation is still mild thanks to the appreciation of the dinar. This favourable environment has produced a fiscal surplus that gives the government some flexibility. The public debt is narrowing, even though it is still relatively high and vulnerable to exchange rate fluctuations and the appetite of international investors. Several factors continue to strain the potential growth rate of the Serbian economy, including unfavourable demographic trends, the slow pace of public sector reforms, and a tough political environment.
    The strength of internal demand remains the main engine of economic activity, which is growing at over 3% per year. This is feeding through into a resurgence of inflationary pressures, although these have been very modest so far. The budget deficit is growing but it remains within the limits set by the government. International trade is seeing some significant shifts. A loss of momentum in goods exports has reduced Israeli products’ market share; at the same time exports of hi-tech services have become the real driving force behind the country’s international trade. Changes in oil prices continue to be a key determinant of the current account balance, despite the exploitation of gas resources.
    Calm has returned to Argentina’s financial markets since the end of September 2018. The peso has levelled off after depreciating 50% against the dollar in the first 9 months of the year. The central bank finally managed to loosen its grip after raising its key policy rate by 70%. Restored calm can largely be attributed to IMF support, but it comes at a high cost: a strictly quantitative monetary policy and the balancing of the primary deficit as of 2019. The economy slid into recession in Q2 2018 and is likely to remain there through mid-2019. So far, the recession has not eroded the country’s fiscal performance, the trade balance has swung back into positive territory and inflation has peaked. Yet will that be enough to restore confidence before October’s elections?
    The elections promised by the military regime ever since it took power in 2014 are finally slated to be held in 2019. Yet this does not mean that the political and social crisis has been resolved: the ruling junta intends to remain in power without providing a veritable solution for “national reconciliation”. From an economic perspective, short-term prospects are still upbeat. The Thai economy will be hit by the slowdown in China, but thanks to dynamic domestic demand, growth should approach its long-term potential this year. In the long term, in contrast, the outlook continues to deteriorate as the political environment holds back the economy’s growth potential.
    Export and real GDP growth have started to suffer from US-China trade tensions and from the mounting difficulties of China’s external trade sector. Taiwan is highly exposed to this type of external shocks due to its heavy reliance on exports of tech products to the Chinese and US markets. However, Taiwan is also well-armed to absorb shocks. External accounts and public finances are strong, and the authorities have a good margin of leeway to act. They are expected to maintain accommodative monetary and fiscal policies in order to stimulate domestic demand in the short term, and should continue some structural reform measures aimed at improving Taiwan’s longer-term economic prospects.
    In late 2017, the authorities decided to resort to direct financing of the Treasury by the central bank to stabilise a dangerously deteriorating macroeconomic situation. The injection of funds helped rebuild bank liquidity via the reimbursement of the debt of state-owned companies. In the absence of a real fiscal impulse, and thanks to prudent monetary policy, inflation remains under control. Without structural adjustments, however, the situation could become very risky.
ABOUT US Three teams of economists (OECD countries research, emerging economies and country risk, banking economics) make up BNP Paribas Economic Research Department.
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