Uncertainties, crises to slow down APEC region’s growth

JAKARTA – Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region is expected to slow down this year amid soaring inflation, the protracted war in Ukraine, and heightened uncertainties, according to a new report by the APEC Policy Support Unit.

On top of that, the continuing impact of the pandemic and virus mutations are draining resources in the region, the report said, which was also noted in a release issued by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Friday.

The APEC Policy Support Unit is currently downgrading its gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for the APEC region to 2.5% this year, which is lower than its earlier 3.2% projection.

The growth forecast for next year has also been downgraded, from 3.4% to 2.6%.

“The expected economic moderation in APEC is in line with lower projections for the global economy. Earlier this week, we saw the International Monetary Fund revise downward its global GDP forecast for 2022 to 3.2% from 3.6%, ” said Rhea Hernando, a senior researcher with the Policy Support Unit.

“The sharp downgrades in economic growth for China and the US, along with an expected contraction in Russia, weighed on the APEC region’s prospects,” she said.

Global food and energy prices increased by 23% and 60% in June, respectively, as compared to a year ago, contributing to a surge in inflation across the APEC region of 5.4% for the period from January to June this year.

This is the highest inflation rate the region has seen since 2008 when it hit 6.6% at the height of the global financial crisis.

“Not only is the inflation high, but it is also becoming broad-based, which particularly harms poor households and small businesses,” Hernando said.

“We expect that global inflation will remain elevated for the rest of this year and then taper in 2023 as aggressive monetary tightening takes effect. Inflation could return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024,” she added.

However, there is a risk of inflation maintaining its momentum and remaining high for a longer period.

According to the APEC Policy Support Unit’s analysis, the prolonged war in Ukraine could cause another round of supply shocks and price hikes on top of an already tight labor market.

Member economies are urged to ramp up crisis management efforts to soften the blow of inflation, uncertainties, and virus mutations, especially for the most vulnerable. Measures that boost vaccination uptake remain vital to guard against a resurgence in infections.

Hence, bringing down inflation should be the immediate focus for governments to help keep the cost of living relatively stable and reduce the risk of poverty, according to the report.

Monetary authorities should be ready to use available tools at their disposal to bring down inflation and communicate policy changes clearly to anchor inflation expectations, the report said.

“Higher interest rates will dampen economic activity and stifle economic growth,” Hernando noted.

“We see the need for member economies to direct their fiscal policy towards improving revenue generation efforts, such as efficient tax collection and prudent government spending, to ensure enough space to help the vulnerable,” she added.

More coordinated and consistent cooperation is deemed vital and necessary to improve the region’s economic resiliency in the medium to long term, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit Denis Hew said.

“Focusing on sustainability and inclusivity could future-proof the region,” he added.

Hew said it means strengthening the region’s connectivity, protecting the environment and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change, addressing the digital divide with updated rules, as well as upgraded digital infrastructure and skills, and increasing women’s participation in the economy.

“While APEC has already taken some great initial steps to fortify the region’s resiliency, different member economies have varying economic conditions and development priorities. Now, the key is to cooperate and translate these commitments into actions and actions into tangible benefits,” he stressed. (Antara)