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ASEAN economic forecasts, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for this year 2020 anticipate a slowdown for this exercise caused mainly by the pandemic, which will cause weak growths or falls in GDP expected in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, according to the FocusEconomics report of May 26, 2020. The expert panel predicts significant growth in all of these countries by 2021.
Brunei economic Outlook
The oil-dependent economy will have suffered in the first and second quarter of this year, hammered by plunging oil prices, collapsing demand for energy from abroad and the broader economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mineral fuels make up nearly 90% of exports and vanishing demand is projected to have crippled the economy and dried up public revenues. That said, data from January and February—before the coronavirus outbreak—showed exports soared on the back of surging foreign sales of oil, gas and chemicals.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to mitigate the economic and social effects of the pandemic and following an economic stimulus package adopted earlier, in early May the government announced a reduction of annual commercial property tax of up to 50% for business landlords.
Brunei economic Growth
The economy is seen slowing down this year due to Covid-19 battering domestic and external demand. Moreover, depressed oil prices further complicate the already troubled economic panorama. Downside risks to the outlook from low commodity prices remain high. The panel sees GDP expanding 1.4% in 2020, which is down 0.7 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 3.1% in 2021.
Cambodia economic Outlook
The economy is currently deteriorating due to the Covid-19 fallout and restrictions to curtail its spread. The all-important apparel industry is reeling from falling demand from key western markets and a lack of imports of raw materials from China amid supply-side disruptions.
In addition, the general collapse in international travel is hammering the crucial tourism industry; air passengers were down by more than 90% in April, according to official estimates. The nascent hydrocarbon industry is being hit as well, as the crash in oil prices is prompting delays in the development of the Apsara offshore oil field. Meanwhile, on 12 May, the government hinted that restrictions will be relaxed and small businesses will be allowed to reopen in a bid to support the economy.
Cambodia economic Growth
Growth will decelerate markedly this year as the pandemic takes its toll. Exports are set to weaken amid falling tourist arrivals, lower demand from the U.S. and the EU, and reduced access to the EU market due to the partial withdrawal of trade preferences. A second wave of infections poses downside risks to the outlook. The panel projects the economy to grow 0.9% in 2020, which is down 0.3 percentage points from last month’s estimate, and 6.2% in 2021.
Indonesia economic Outlook
Economic growth fell to a nearly two-decade low in the first quarter. Social distancing measures and weak sentiment hit domestic demand, while a softer contraction in imports reduced the contribution from the external sector. Turning to the second quarter, the economy is likely deteriorating further as the full impact of social distancing measures—which include a travel ban until end-May—take their toll.
In April, manufacturing conditions deteriorated at a record rate, consumer confidence tumbled to an over one-decade low and exports shrank sharply on weaker demand. In response to the gloomy macroeconomic picture, the government ramped up its fiscal stimulus in mid-May through the USD 43 billion national economic recovery program, which expands on previous stimulus packages.
Indonesia economic Growth
Economic activity will be tepid ahead on the impact of Covid-19 on domestic and external demand. However, fiscal and monetary stimulus should prop up the economy somewhat. The government’s slow health response and financial volatility pose downside risks, while the potential passage of the omnibus law aimed at improving the business environment is an upside risk. FocusEconomics panelists expect GDP growth of 0.3% in 2020, which is down 1.6 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 5.7% in 2021.
Laos economic Outlook
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown will have dealt a notable blow to the economy in H1, hammering the tourism, transport and services sectors. Due to the nationwide lockdown as well as border closures, the industrial and tourism sectors are set to be severely hit in H1.
On a more positive note, the state airline announced it will reopen its domestic routes on 22 May, which should help gradually restart activity. Moreover, China’s Chifeng Jilong said it will resume gold production at Sepon mine for the first time in over six years, thanks to the recent spike in gold prices, while the government is pushing ahead with the Mekong River hydropower project. The plant, part of the government’s plan to export electricity to its neighbors, is estimated to cost over USD 2 billion and its construction should start later this year.
Laos economic Growth
The economy is poised to weaken considerably this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will weigh heavily on global trade, manufacturing and tourism. That said, strong electricity generation and a rebound in agricultural production should mitigate the slowdown. A precarious fiscal position is a risk to the outlook. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists project GDP to expand 2.6% in 2020, which is down 0.1 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 5.6% in 2021.
Malaysia economic Outlook
The economy expanded at the slowest pace in over a decade in the first quarter, as the country reeled from the Covid-19 fallout. Sharp contractions in exports and fixed investment prompted the deceleration, amid lower Chinese demand and capital outflows.
Only resilient household spending growth and a jump in government consumption spared the economy a downturn in Q1. Turning to the second quarter, GDP is set to shrink as lockdown measures hammer consumption, while bleaker economic conditions abroad weigh on trade and investment. A record drop in the manufacturing PMI in April provided a glimpse of the scale of deterioration, as companies cut output at an unprecedented rate amid plummeting demand. In politics, on 18 May, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin managed to postpone a confidence vote until, most likely, July, averting a political crisis amid dwindling parliamentary support for his administration.
Malaysia economic Growth
The Covid-19 pandemic is set to push the economy into recession this year. Rising unemployment and containment measures will hammer private consumption, while the deteriorated sentiment should hinder fixed investment. Exports should shrink amid plummeting demand for oil and a drop in tourist arrivals. Political risks also cloud the outlook. FocusEconomics panelists see the economy contracting 2.6% in 2020, which is down 1.0 percentage points from last month’s forecast, before rebounding and growing 5.7% in 2021.
Myanmar economic Oulook
The economy is currently reeling from the Covid-19 fallout. Manufacturing activity deteriorated at the fastest pace on record in April, as output, new orders and employment all sank at record rates, amid suspended business operations as a result of the pandemic.
On the external front, agriculture exports are suffering from plummeting foreign demand, while the tourism sector is being rocked by the collapse in air travel. In response, on 27 April, the government launched an economic relief plan, which envisages a credit guarantee scheme, tax deferrals and incentives for foreign investors. Meanwhile, the World Bank announced a three-year partnership with Myanmar on 13 May, on the heels of an emergency USD 50 million loan delivered by the Bank in April to support the healthcare system.
Myanmar economic Growth
Growth is set to slow markedly this year as weaker external demand hurts the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Moreover, foreign investment inflows will likely dwindle owing to the global nature of the health crisis. This could end up delaying investment projects and harming the government’s ability to act as it has limited fiscal space. The FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panel projects economic growth of 2.8% in FY 2020, which is down 0.7 percentage points from last month, and 6.0% in FY 2021.
Philippines economic Outlook
GDP contracted for the first time since 1998 in the first quarter, hit by disruptions from the Taal Volcano eruption in January, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown put in place in March. Moreover, the economy is expected to have worsened further at the start of the second quarter due to the lockdown and a sudden downturn in the global economy.
The manufacturing PMI hit a new record low in April on plummeting production, new orders and exports, while tourism plunged over 50% in January–April. In addition, the government stated in May that around 42,000 overseas Filipino workers are set to return in May and June, joining the over 27,000 who have already returned as economic fallout from Covid-19 disrupts jobs overseas. The migration will likely see remittances—an economic lifeline for the country—plunge in the second quarter and possibly beyond.
Philippines economic Growth
After eight years of above 6.0% growth, the economy is seen contracting this year. Disruptions from Covid-19 containment measures, evaporated tourism and plunging remittances will all pummel GDP. While higher government spending and investment should provide some relief, private investment is seen falling on soft demand and high uncertainty. FocusEconomics panelists see GDP falling 2.3% in 2020, which is down 3.7 percentage points from last month’s forecast. Next year, GDP is seen growing 7.5% in 2021.
Singapore economic Outlook
The economy is expected to be sinking deeper into recession in the second quarter, after contracting at the sharpest rate in over a decade in the first quarter.
The manufacturing and electronics PMIs dropped to new lows in April, both registering the worst readings seen since the global financial crisis as containment measures and decimated demand curbed production. Moreover, strict lockdown measures are set to continue until 1 June before a gradual reopening, keeping economic activity halted. On a brighter note, exports continued to grow in April, overshooting market expectations. However, the reading was largely due to volatile pharmaceutical shipments, while exports of petrochemicals and electronics contracted.
Singapore economic Growth
Singapore’s economy is seen languishing in a deep recession this year. Lockdown measures to contain Covid-19 are pummeling consumer and business spending, while export demand shrivels due to fallout from the health crisis abroad. That said, unprecedent fiscal stimulus will help cushion the blow somewhat and government finances remain healthy. FocusEconomics panelists project the economy to contract 5.4% in 2020, which is down 0.9 percentage points from last month, and to grow 5.2% in 2021.
Thailand economic Outlook
GDP contracted at the sharpest pace in over eight years in the first quarter, as the fallout from Covid-19 and the measures to curtail its spread hammered the economy. Capital spending sank largely due to a drop in construction activity, while exports fell on a collapse in service sales amid plummeting tourist arrivals in Q1.
On the upside, resilient private consumption growth cushioned the downturn somewhat. Turning to the second quarter, GDP looks to be shrinking at an even faster rate. Record-low consumer and business sentiment in April suggest that social distancing and business closures dealt a heavy blow to economic activity. Moreover, the loss of trade privileges with the U.S. in April and plummeting tourist arrivals look set to hammer exports in Q2. Amid the collapse in air travel, the government approved a debt-restructuring plan for state-owned Thai Airways in 19 May.
Thailand economic Growth
The economy will likely shrink this year as the tourism, retail and manufacturing sectors all reel from the impact of Covid-19. Moreover, plummeting external demand should hammer exports, while heightened uncertainties restrain investment. Government fiscal stimulus and monetary policy action will soften the blow. Risks to the outlook center on the length of the pandemic. Our panel projects the economy to contract 5.4% in 2020, which is down 0.8 percentage points from last month’s projection, before growing 4.4% in 2021.
Vietnam economic Outlook
Early signs from the second quarter are discouraging. In April, the manufacturing PMI fell to an all-time low amid drops in output, new orders and employment; retail sales plunged on social distancing measures; exports were down on lockdowns abroad; and visitor arrivals ground to a halt due to travel restrictions.
This comes after growth slowed to an over one-decade low in Q1 due to fallout from Covid-19 and lower oil and gas output. More positively, the government has lifted restrictions on activity in recent weeks due to success in containing coronavirus: Most non-essential businesses are operating, schools are open and domestic flights have resumed. However, the 14-day mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors is still in place. These looser social distancing restrictions, coupled with fiscal and monetary support, should be beginning to aid domestic activity.
Vietnam economic Growth
According to ASEAN Economic Forecasts, growth in Vietnam is seen slumping this year. Although domestic activity has resumed, the highly-open economy will be hit by the impact of recession abroad on tourism and exports. Risks to the outlook center on the length of the coronavirus pandemic and a potentially weak recovery in external demand. FocusEconomics panelists project the economy will expand 2.6% in 2020, which is down 0.3 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 7.7% in 2021.