CARI Captures Issue 601: GDP growth of ASEAN Member States, 2019 – 2024 (%)

ASEAN-5 economies expected to grow by 4.5% in 2023 according to IMF
(11 April 2023) According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook April 2023, the ASEAN-5 economies are projected to grow by 4.5% in 2023. According to the IMF, the ASEAN-5 is composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. This is an upgrade of 0.2% from the previous projections made by the IMF in the World Economic Outlook for January 2023. The grouping is also expected to grow by 4.6% in 2024, a downgrade of 0.1% from the previous projections made in January. On a country-by-country basis, the Philippines is expected to grow the fastest within ASEAN in 2023 at 6.0% growth, followed by Cambodia and Viet Nam, which are both expected to grow at 5.8%.

US$5.4 billion China-built line connecting Kunming and Beijing currently delayed
(12 April 2023) A US$5.4 billion China-built line that aims to connect Bangkok and Kunming in China via Lao PDR is expected to be operational by 2028. The project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and is currently delayed, having first been proposed to the Thai government in 2010. Under the deal signed by the Thai government, Thailand will cover all project expenditures while using Chinese technologies. When the project is complete, trains will run from Bangkok to Nong Khai, on the Mekong River border with Lao PDR, at up to 250 km/h. Among the reasons for the delay of the project including ongoing attempts by activists to protect some old stations due to be demolished in order for newer stations to be built.

Apple in talks with suppliers to manufacture Macbooks in Thailand
(13 April 2023) Apple is in talks with its suppliers to manufacture Macbooks in Thailand, as the company seeks to diversify its supply chains away from China amidst geopolitical tensions. Apple has already been manufacturing its Apple Watch in Thailand for more than a year. Apple and its suppliers are discussing possible assembly and production of components and modules for MacBooks in Thailand, with final assembly to take place in Viet Nam. Apple had already started mass production of Macbooks in Viet Nam in the first half of 2023, making it the first time the flagship product will be made outside of China. Thailand has emerged as a beneficiary of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, with many servers, data centers, and printer and automotive suppliers having set up factories in the country since 2018.

Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway expected to be operational by August 2023
(11 April 2023) According to Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs, the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway is expected to be operational by August 2023. The project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the 142-kilometer rail line is set to link Jakarta to the city of Bandung in West Java. The project is spearheaded by the Indonesian-Chinese consortium PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC), and has been beset by delays and cost overruns of various kinds since the Indonesian government first awarded the contract for the project in September 2015. While the project was initially supposed to cost US$5.5 billion, cost overruns have now seen the total cost of the project increase to US$7.2 billion.

Customer satisfaction with finance sector in Singapore increases in fourth quarter of 2022
(12 April 2023) Customer satisfaction with the finance sector in Singapore had increased in the fourth quarter of 2022. These findings were part of a national study on customer satisfaction carried out by the Singapore Management University’s Institute of Service Excellence (ISE), which is conducted quarterly and annually. According to the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore, the finance sector’s score improved by 0.9% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2022, rising to 75.5 points out of a total score of 100. Within the finance sector, the banks sub-sector scored 75.6 points, up 1% year on year, while the credit cards sub-sector scored 73.8 points, a 0.9% increase. But e-payment apps fell by 1.8%, scoring 75.6 points. The increase in customer satisfaction was attributed to recent steps taken by banks to boost their online banking security. However, the study also found that customers were on the whole less willing to try out newly established digital banks.

Update to visa scheme to see AI engineers and alternative meat scientists favored
(10 April 2023) The Singapore government is in the process of updating the country’s visa scheme, with the changes to come into effect in September 2023. The government has released a list of 27 jobs that will be favored in the updated point-based assessment process. The new scheme shifts the focus from an individual’s qualifications towards companies’ contributions to the local economy. Applicants for Singapore’s Employment Pass for 27 jobs in six industries – agritech, financial services, green economy, health care, infocomm technology and maritime – will be favored under the new scheme. Within the ICT sector, the government is seeking more AI and data scientists, cloud and cybersecurity specialists, and software developers. In the financial sector, investment advisers for high-net-worth individuals and family offices are being sought. In agritech, the talent being favored include alternative protein food application scientists. 

Foreign investors purchase US$983 million worth of Malaysian government bonds in March 2023
(13 April 2023) According to data by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), global investors purchased US$983 million worth of Malaysian government bonds in March 2023, the most since January 2022. Based on standard deviation analysis, the magnitude of increase in those flows compared with the five-year average was bigger than in the region’s other major economies. Malaysian bonds are currently attractive due to inflation showing signs of stabilizing within the country. Malaysia also has a strong current account given oil and commodity exports. Even though the yields of Malaysian debt are relatively low, they offer a yield pickup if traders short the ringgit against the dollar for hedging via forward contracts as long as the Malaysian currency doesn’t strengthen. BNM has kept monetary policy unchanged at its past two meetings.

RCEP Monitor

Exports down 8.6% year-on-year in first 10 days of April 2023
(11 April 2023) South Korea’s exports fell by 8.6% year-on-year in the first ten days of April 2023. According to data from the Korea Customs Service, South Korea’s outbound shipments stood at US$14 billion in the first ten days of April, compared with US$15.3 billion a year earlier. In the same period, imports dropped by 7.3% year-on-year to US$17.4 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$3.41 billion. The drop in exports was attributed to the continued downcycle in the global chip industry. In terms of export destination, exports to the United States reached US$30 billion having risen by 32.1% year-on-year, while exports to China fell 31.9% to US$2.66 billion. In March 2023, outbound shipments fell 13.6% year-on-year to US$55.12 billion.

Australia to suspend complaint against China with WTO after Beijing agrees to review barley tariffs
(11 April 2023) Australia will suspend a complaint lodged against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) after Beijing agreed to review steep tariffs on Australian barley, signaling the easing of trade tensions between both countries. Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that if a settlement was reached on the barley dispute, a similar process may be expected over China’s tariffs on Australian wine. The review by China is set to take up to four months. China imposed tariffs of up to 80% on Australian barley in 2020. About US$13.3 billion worth of Australian goods in total — including coal, wine, lobsters and cotton — were hit with punitive sanctions and other import measures designed to disrupt trade by China after the Australian government called for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the trade restrictions by China had been expected to damage Australia’s economy, the booming price of minerals and natural resources managed to cushion the impact.

Japan saw first net population increase from immigration in two years in 2022
(13 April 2023) Japan saw its first net population increase from immigration in two years in 2022. Japan added 194,000 foreign residents of all ages, bringing the total to a record 2.92 million in comparable data going back to 1950. The growth in immigration is expected to continue in 2023 after the lifting of COVID-19-related border controls. Despite this, Japan saw the 12th straight year of decline in the working-age population. The number of people aged 15 to 64 fell 0.4% year-on-year to 74.21 million as of 01 October, 2022. According to another survey by the government, the average number of people aged 15 and older participating in the labor force in 2022 shrank by 50,000 to 69.02 million, stagnating after seeing steady rises over the last decade due to more women and seniors entering the labor pool.

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