Despite shocks, Asia-Pacific economy is fastest-growing in the world, UN says

25 April 2005 –

The Asia-Pacific region will continue to produce the fastest growing economy in the world this year, but it has experienced such shocks as last December's Indian Ocean tsunami and high oil prices, while a flat United States dollar and a rapidly ageing population present challenges, the regional United Nations economic and social body said today.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched a new report called the "2005 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific: Dealing with Shocks" simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand, and more than a dozen other cities in the region.

China's continued high growth of 9.5 per cent, despite measures to cool down the economy, was a surprise, ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said in Bangkok.

"Apart from China, Southeast Asia had its highest economic growth rate since the 1997 crisis, with Singapore leading with 8.4 per cent, followed by Malaysia and Viet Nam at over 7 per cent," he added.

On the other hand, "the region is experiencing a year of shocks," Mr. Kim said. "Oil prices are 50 per cent higher in nominal terms than two years ago and we may have to revise forecasts if high prices persist. The economic impact of the tsunami disaster on the Asia-Pacific region in 2005 is likely to be small, but destruction of human life and infrastructure has burdened smaller affected countries."

Population aging was also advancing faster than expected, especially in China and Sri Lanka, while the region was experiencing growing youth unemployment, he said.

The report provides the supporting data for debate on economic and social policies at the ministerial segment of the Commission's sixty-first session next month, ESCAP said.

The session will be preceded by the seventh meeting of the Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries, which will make recommendations to the ESCAP on selected issues.

The growth rates of less developed countries and Pacific island economies average below 5 per cent, which cannot meet their development challenges, Mr. Kim said.

The survey will also be presented at the July session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to help countries develop effective socio-economic policies, ESCAP said.

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