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'Economist' top growers' list for 2014 springs surprises

South Sudan GDP forecast to grow fastest; China out of top-12 list for first time

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South Sudan GDP forecast to grow fastest - PHOTO: REUTERS

[SINGAPORE] Which economy will be the fastest-growing next year?

The answer will surprise most people. In fact, many will struggle to even pinpoint it on a world map.

It is South Sudan, going by The Economist's Top Growers for 2014 list. Occupying the top spot, this landlocked East African economy, which depends on oil for reportedly more than 90 per cent of its revenue, is predicted to grow its gross domestic product (GDP) by 35 per cent.

The resumption of oil production earlier this year - after it was halted in January 2012 over a disagreement with Sudan, from which it split in 2011 - will be a huge boost to its economic growth.

Ranked second on the magazine's 2014 list of 12 runaway economies is Mongolia, expected to clock another double-digit year with 15.3 per cent growth, buoyed by a mining boom.

And third is Macau, projected to achieve 13.5 per cent GDP growth thanks to its gaming and tourism revenues.

Indeed, The Economist's list features mostly resource-rich developing or until recently war-torn countries that one would not usually associate with high economic growth.

Speaking at The Economist's The World in 2014 gala dinner in Singapore on Tuesday, Mongolia's President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj expressed confidence that his country would continue to record sterling growth next year and thereafter, having already grown 17 per cent last year and 13 per cent this year.

"The World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) predict that Mongolia can keep that pace of two-digit growth for the coming 20 years," he said.

The most surprising omission from the 2014 list was China, absent for the first time. Its GDP growth next year will not be shabby - at 7.3 per cent - but is still not good enough for it to be among the 12 fastest-growing economies.

Its maturing, slower-growing and middle-income economy is on a general downward trend as a new generation of leaders shifts the country from a focus on low-value-added exports and government stimulus to a self-sustaining economy powered by consumer demand, The Economist said.

China's Special Administrative Region of Macau sticks out among the top three for being neither resource-rich nor energy-producing, but its casino and tourism industries are expected to hum.

Another economy of note on the list is Bhutan, which is projected to grow by 9 per cent. More popularly known for its Gross National Happiness than its GDP, its economy is expected to do well from its hydroelectricity exports to India.

Although Singapore did not make it into the list of 12 for 2014, it is expected to achieve a sustainable growth rate of 3.8 per cent next year. The Economist expects the trend of rising trade within Asia, which has helped Singapore grow even as Western economies have struggled, to be rebalanced next year as emerging economies slow down and developed economies recover. It will be Singapore's opening to reap dividends from the surge in global trade.

The magazine said of Singapore: "Manufacturing, though less significant than in most Asian countries, will remain a force behind growth, and the economy will continue the climb back towards its robust growth rates of old."