The Asia-Pacific region continues to be the world leader in growth, and recent data point to a pickup in momentum. Growth is projected to reach 5.5 percent in 2017 and 5.4 percent in 2018. Accommodative policies will underpin domestic demand, offsetting tighter global financial conditions. Despite volatile capital flows, Asian financial markets have been resilient, reflecting strong fundamentals. However, the near-term outlook is clouded with significant uncertainty, and risks, on balance, remain slanted to the downside. On the upside, growth momentum remains strong, particularly in advanced economies and in Asia. Additional policy stimulus, especially U.S. fiscal policy, could provide further support. On the downside, the continued tightening of global financial conditions and economic uncertainty could trigger volatility in capital flows. A possible shift toward protectionism in major trading partners also represents a substantial risk to the region. Asia is particularly vulnerable to a decline in global trade because the region has a high trade openness ratio, with significant participation in global supply chains. A bumpier-than-expected transition in China would also have large spillovers. Medium-term growth faces secular headwinds, including population aging and slow productivity catchup. Adapting to aging could be especially challenging for Asia, as populations living at relatively low per capita income levels in many parts of the region are rapidly becoming old. In other words, parts of Asia risk “growing old before becoming rich.” Another challenge for the region is how to raise productivity growth—productivity convergence with the United States and other advanced economies has stalled—when external factors, including further trade integration, might not be as supportive as they were in the past. On policies, monetary policy should generally remain accommodative, though policy rates should be raised if inflationary pressures pick up, and macroprudential settings should be tightened in some countries to slow credit growth. Fiscal policy should support and complement structural reforms and external rebalancing, where needed and fiscal space is available; countries with closed output gaps should start rebuilding fiscal space. To sustain long-term growth, structural reforms are needed to deal with challenges from the demographic transition and to boost productivity.
In past decades, Asia has benefited significantly from demographic trends, along with strong policies. Many parts of Asia, particularly East Asia, reaped a “demographic dividend” as the number of workers grew faster than the number of dependents, providing a strong tailwind for growth. This dividend is about to end for many Asian economies. This can have important implications for labor markets, investment and saving decisions, and public budgets.
Nearly 10 years after the global financial crisis, the prospect of mediocre future growth is still a concern. In part, the cause for this concern is the recent slowdown in productivity growth in many advanced economies—a slowdown that is widely expected to continue. Another related reason is the weakness in business investment, which is one channel through which new technology and innovation—the fundamental underpinnings of productivity growth—influence economies.
Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Frank Eich, and Mr. Sanjeev Gupta
Pension reform is high on the agenda of many advanced and emerging market economies, for many reasons. First, public pensions often constitute a large share of government expenditure. Second, population aging means that reforms would be needed just to keep pension spending from rising in the future. Third, in many economies, low or falling pension coverage will leave large segments of the population without adequate income in old age and at risk of falling into poverty. Although a number of studies have assessed the effects of pension reforms on fiscal sustainability, a systematic analysis of equity issues in pension systems—and how countries have grappled with these issues—has yet to be undertaken. This book brings together the latest research on equity issues related to pension systems and pension reforms in the post-crisis world. Some of the key issues covered include: the effect of pension systems on intergenerational equity and the impact of pension reforms on poverty, the effects of pension reform measures on fiscal sustainability and equity, and the fiscal consequences of achieving different equity goals. It also presents country case studies. The volume provides a rich menu of material to assist policymakers and academic audiences seeking to understand the latest research in this area, as well as the lessons and challenges for the design of reforms.