Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tony Tan: global recession risk higher now

Dangers to world economy include Europe's debt turmoil, deleveraging in the United States, and protectionist pressures

A FRAGILE economic recovery could see the world tip back into recession 'sooner than expected', says Tony Tan, deputy chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC).

Dr Tan, also GIC's executive director and chairman of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), told delegates at the Swiss Re Forum here yesterday that downside risks to the global economy have increased, highlighting three in particular: the debt turmoil in Europe, deleveraging in the United States, and protectionist pressures around the world.

'It will take a long time for the developed world to fully heal from this crisis,' Dr Tan said. 'The economic recovery, while real, is fragile and there is a risk that negative shocks could push the global economy towards a recession sooner than expected.'

Meanwhile, the developing economies will gain in economic importance and will expect more say on world affairs. 'The shift in economic power to the emerging world will likely increase geopolitical risks,' he said. 'Conflicts could also arise over access to natural resources.'

Investors, meanwhile, will have to place a larger proportion of their assets in emerging markets. 'Far from being a risky and perhaps optional part of their portfolios, emerging markets will become a core and unavoidable asset class in global portfolios,' he said.

But one major risk investors face is that the global recovery has so far been supported by extraordinarily benign government policies. 'Changes in policies or mistakes will thus have a significant impact on the global economic and financial environment,' Dr Tan said. 'A key challenge for policymakers is to properly time the withdrawal of unprecedented monetary and fiscal policies.'

However, governments will have to juggle exit policies with, in some cases, the pressing need to repair public finances. 'The challenge for policymakers in many developed economies will be to convince markets that they have credible plans to ensure sustainable public finances over the medium to long term, while minimising the negative short-term impact on growth,' Dr Tan said.

Asia meanwhile will have its own set of problems. 'Asia will increasingly face labour, natural resource and commodity constraints to its high-growth strategy.' As well, growth will have to depend on a more balanced economic model in that case, he said, which should boost Asian currencies and consumption. But policymakers will have to beware asset price bubbles, rising inflation and populist anger in the developed world that could lead to 'excessive regulation and protectionism', he warned.

Dr Tan said: 'Asia is at the cusp of the next stage in its development. There will likely be bumps along the way - perhaps a few crises - but if we learn the right lessons from history, especially those of the recent Great Crisis, Asia will innovate and adapt

Source: Business Times, 24 Jul 2010

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