| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

IMF warns of ‘stagflationary’ risks in Asia, cuts growth outlook

A senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official cautioned on Tuesday that the Asian area risks a “stagflationary” scenario, citing the Ukraine crisis, a jump in commodity prices, and a slowdown in China as major sources of instability.

While Asia’s trade and financial ties to Russia and Ukraine are limited, the crisis will have an impact on the region’s economies through higher commodity prices and slower growth in European trading partners, according to Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, acting director of the International Monetary Fund’s Asia and Pacific Department.

Moreover, she noted that inflation in Asia is also starting to pick up at a time when China’s economic slowdown is adding to pressure on regional growth.

“Therefore, the region faces a stagflationary outlook, with growth being lower than previously expected, and inflation being higher,” she told an online news conference in Washington.

The headwinds to growth come at a time when policy space to respond is limited, Gulde-Wolf said, adding that Asian policymakers will face a difficult trade-off of responding to slowing growth and rising inflation.

“Monetary tightening will be needed in most countries, with the speed of tightening depending on domestic inflation developments and external pressures,” she said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s expected steady interest rate hikes also present a challenge to Asian policymakers given the region’s huge dollar-denominated debt, Gulde-Wolf said.

In its latest forecast issued this month, the IMF said it expects Asia’s economy to expand 4.9% this year, down 0.5 percentage points from its previous projection made in January.

Inflation in Asia is now expected to hit 3.4% in 2022, 1 percentage point higher than forecast in January, it said.

A further escalation in the war in Ukraine, new COVID-19 waves, a faster-than-expected Fed rate hike trajectory and prolonged or more widespread lockdowns in China are among risks to Asia’s growth outlook, Gulde-Wolf said.

“There is significant uncertainty around our baseline forecasts, with risks tilted to the downside.” she said.

  • Reuters