Singapore slashes yearly growth forecast, stoking recession fears

Singapore’s shrinking annual growth forecast has fueled concerns over the state of the global economy. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 August 2019

Singapore slashes yearly growth forecast, stoking recession fears

  • Global economic risks including protectionism, Brexit and China-US tariff dispute taking a toll, warns trade ministry

BENGALURU: Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast on Tuesday as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.

The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore — often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy — to zero to 1 percent from its previous
1.5 percent-2.5 percent projection.
Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.
“GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half,” the trade ministry said.
The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks, including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.
Final second-quarter GDP data on Tuesday showed a 3.3 percent on-quarter contraction on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis. That was slightly smaller than the 3.4 percent decline seen in the government’s advance estimate but deeper than a
2.9 percent fall predicted in a Reuters poll and a sharp contrast to the robust 3.8 percent first quarter expansion, which was driven by brisk construction activity.
Tuesday’s data also confirmed annual GDP expanded 0.1 percent in April-June from a year earlier, its slowest rate in a decade, and lower than poll expectations of 0.2 percent and the first quarter’s 1.1 percent.
Singapore’s benchmark stock index fell 1.2 percent to a two-month low in early trade, underperforming other bourses in the region.
A central bank official said after the data that it was not considering an off-cycle policy meeting. The next of its scheduled semi-annual meetings is in October, when it is widely expected to ease policy.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Singapore sees 2019 growth at zero to 1 percent.

• Economists fear recession may be around the corner.

• Central bank says it is not considering an off-cycle policy move.

Singapore has been hit hard by the Sino-US trade war, which has disrupted world supply chains in a blow to business investment and corporate profits.
Also on Tuesday, Singapore cut its full-year forecast for non-oil domestic exports to a 9 percent contraction from an 8 percent fall previously. That comes after a 26.9 percent drop in electronics exports in the second quarter year-on-year.
“With trade tensions between the US-China unlikely to abate soon, we expect exports and trade-related services to push the economy into technical recession in Q3,” said Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics.
New Zealand, India and Thailand all cut interest rates last week, signalling major concerns about the outlook for economic growth. Last month, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since 2008.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an annual speech last week that the government stood ready to stimulate the economy.
“It feels like the storm is coming if you look at the whole macroeconomic fundamentals softening,” said Selena Ling,
head of treasury and strategy at OCBC Bank.
“All the downside risks are piling up on one side,” Ling added, pointing to the myriad of global risks flagged in the trade ministry statement.
A faltering economy is expected to crimp growth at Singapore’s three local listed banks, which have so far benefited from improved margins, steady interest rates and loan growth.


Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

  • Experts say deal will usher in more economic and development opportunities for the country

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, ACWA power, will set up an LNG-based 3,600 MW plant in Bangladesh after an agreement was signed in Dhaka on Thursday.

The MoU was signed by ACWA Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan and officials from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials told Arab News on Monday.

According to the agreement, ACWA will invest $3 billion in Bangladesh’s energy development sector, of which $2.5 billion will be used to build the power plant while the rest will be spent on an LNG terminal to facilitate fuel supply to the plant. Under the deal, ACWA will also set up a 2 MW solar power plant.

In recent months, both countries have engaged in a series of discussions for investment opportunities in Bangladesh’s industry and energy sectors. 

During the Saudi-Bangladesh investment cooperation meeting in March this year, Dhaka proposed a $35 billion investment plan to a high-powered Saudi delegation led by Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Saudi commerce and investment minister, and Mohammed bin Mezyed Al-Tuwaijri, the Saudi economy and planning minister.

However, officials in Dhaka said that this was the first investment deal to be signed between the two countries.

“We have just inked the MoU for building the LNG-based power plant. Now, ACWA will conduct a feasibility study regarding the location of the plant, which is expected to be completed in the next six months,” Khaled Mahmood, chairman of BPDB, told Arab News.

He added that there are several locations in Moheshkhali, Chottogram and the Mongla port area for the proposed power plant.

“We need to find a suitable location where the drift of the river will be suitable for establishing the LNG plant and we need to also consider the suitability of establishing the transmission lines,” Mahmood said.

“It will be either a JV (Joint Venture) or an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode of investment, which is yet to be determined. But, we are expecting that in next year the investment will start coming here,” Mahmood said.

BPDB expects to complete the set-up process of the power plant within 36 to 42 months.

“We are in close contact with ACWA and focusing on the successful completion of the project within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Abunayyan said that he was optimistic about the new investment deal.

“Bangladesh has been a model for the Muslim world in economic progress. This is our beginning, and our journey and our relationship will last for a long time,” Abunayyan told a gathering after the MoU signing ceremony.

Economists and experts in Bangladesh also welcomed the ACWA investment in the energy development sector.

“This sort of huge and long-term capital investment will create a lot of employment opportunities. On the other hand, it will facilitate other trade negotiations with the Middle Eastern countries, too,” Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Arab News.

She added that Bangladesh needs to weigh the pros and cons before finalizing such contracts so that the country can earn the “maximum benefits” from the investment.

“It will also expedite other big investments in Bangladesh from different countries,” she said.

Another energy economist, Dr. Asadujjaman, said that Bangladesh needs to exercise caution while conducting the feasibility study for such a huge investment.

“We need to address the environmental aspects, opportunity costs and other economic perspectives while working with this type of big investment. Considering the present situation, the country also needs to focus on producing more solar energy,” Dr. Asadujjaman told Arab News.