Emerging

Emerging

    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.  
    Emerging - 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.

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