Emerging

Emerging

    Emerging - 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.
    Emerging - 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.  

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