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S'pore economy to stay in the pink for next 2 years

Cebr projects 3.8% growth this year on higher consumption and strong exports

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's economic growth will stay strong in the next two years relative to the other countries in Asean, despite the cooling of China's economic engine, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has predicted.

The independent consultancy said in its latest quarterly report that healthy increases in consumption and strong exports will boost Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 per cent this year.

Next year, strong momentum and greater demand will push up its economic growth to 4.1 per cent.

In the year after, 2015, Singapore's growth will ease, but remain robust at 3.9 per cent, said the Cebr report entitled "Economic Insight, Southeast Asia".

The consultancy expects Asean as a whole to grow 5.0 per cent this year, still weighed down by Thailand's recession. And although the country is tipped to recover in the second half of this year, it may be affected by China's soft landing, which is projected to extend into next year and dampen its demand for Asean's goods and services.

Another factor is the US' expected reversal of its easy-money policy.

The report said: "Stronger global growth and the establishment of the Asean Economic Community will offer some respite, but tighter monetary policy in the US as the Federal Reserve begins to taper will mean growth remains relatively subdued at 5.1 per cent in 2014 and 5.0 per cent in 2015."

Cebr's report was apparently written before the onset of the current anti-government mass protests in Bangkok, as it contains no mention of Thailand's political problems.

But the report does assess the damage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and its likely fallout in the rest of Asean.

Not only is economic growth in the Philippines expected to take a hit, the report says intra-regional trade will suffer, hampering growth in other Asean countries.

Strong government spending and higher exports to China in the second half of the year were tipped to boost the Philippine GDP to 6.9 per cent this year, but Typhoon Haiyan is expected to make growth "noticeably weaker" in the final quarter of the year.

Slower government spending and a tighter US monetary policy will cap growth at 5.8 per cent next year, said the report.

Stubbornly high unemployment and extreme poverty, along with the need to lift interest rates to attract capital, will trim the country's GDP growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015, it added.

The Cebr report's prediction for Thailand is that its economy will grow 3.4 per cent this year. Thanks to healthier consumption and export growth, it will jump by 4.4 per cent next year; stronger exports to Western markets will nudge the Thai economy up 4.5 per cent in 2015.

In Malaysia, growth will be at 4.6 per cent courtesy of a lift from China's economy. But weakened Chinese growth will depress Malaysia's growth to 4.2 per cent next year.

A revamped general sales tax in 2015 could further hinder growth, but a stronger global economy should ease this somewhat. Cebr forecasts that Malaysia's GDP growth will be 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Indonesia, Asean's biggest economy, is likely to grow 5.7 per cent this year, as a slight uptick in the Chinese economy in the second half of the year is expected to soften the effect of China's cooling economy on Indonesian exports.

But the report said the US' tighter monetary policy and higher interest rates will lower Indonesia's growth to 5.6 per cent next year and the year after.