Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2022: Subregional Forecasts

Key Messages

  • Developing Asia’s economy rebounded by 6.9% in 2021, but the recovery is still largely incomplete in most of the region.
  • Remittances remained resilient; tourism showed signs of incipient recovery.
  • Fiscal and monetary policies in developing Asian economies remain broadly accommodative, but the region may be on the cusp of a tightening cycle.
  • Inflation in developing Asia this year and next will be driven by continuing recovery and elevated energy and commodity prices. Headline inflation is expected to accelerate in all subregions but the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Caucasus and Central Asia

The economy returned to growth in 2021 as external and domestic demand recovered. Higher commodity prices and currency depreciation sharply accelerated inflation. With external developments, growth will slow in 2022 and revive somewhat in 2023. Inflation will accelerate further in 2022 from higher global prices and utility tariffs, then ease in 2023. The current account deficit narrowed in 2021, but lower remittances and higher import costs will widen it this year and next. Higher productivity in agriculture is critical for inclusive growth.
Growth rebounded in 2021 on strong services and manufacturing. Rising utility tariffs and domestic demand boosted inflation. Higher prices for petroleum exports lifted the current account from a small deficit to a large surplus. Growth will moderate in 2022 and 2023 as private consumption and hydrocarbon gains weaken. Inflation will rise and the current account surplus widen as supply chains are disrupted and petroleum prices skyrocket. Improved governance at state-owned enterprises is key to making them more efficient.
Broad recovery propelled the economy from contraction in 2020 to double-digit growth in 2021, and inflation neared double digits. Fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will slow growth in 2022 before it rises somewhat in 2023 with recovering demand. Monetary tightening and fiscal contraction are projected to slow inflation in both years. The current account deficit, having narrowed in 2021, should widen in 2022 before narrowing again in 2023. Fiscal decentralization would improve service delivery and support growth.
Growth returned in 2021 with quarantine loosening. Drought and higher global energy prices boosted inflation, while the current account deficit narrowed. Growth will slow in 2022 because of monetary tightening and adverse consequences from the Russian invasion of Ukraine but reaccelerate in 2023 as reform takes effect. Inflation will ease with tight monetary policy, currency interventions, price controls, and higher oil production and prices yield a 2023 current account surplus. Achieving carbon neutrality requires bold action, including better targeted fuel subsidies and lower emission caps.
Growth returned in 2021, reflecting strong expansion in mining, trade, and transportation, along with higher consumption and public investment. Inflation jumped as continued disruption to supply chains boosted prices for food and other goods, while lower exports brought the sizable current account deficit. Growth is projected to slow in 2022 and recover slightly in 2023, with significant downside risks. Inflation will remain high, and the current account deficit will widen. Developing a greener economy will mitigate risks to sustainable development.
After slowing in 2020 because of COVID-19, growth more than doubled in 2021 as trade partners reopened, industrialization accelerated, remittances rose marginally, and vaccines were successfully rolled out. Inflation slowed, but a wider trade deficit narrowed the current account surplus. Severe spillover from the expected economic downturn in Russia will slow growth significantly in 2022 and 2023, bring double-digit inflation, and cause current account deficits in both years as remittances plunge. Maintaining debt sustainability is important for macroeconomic stability.
Higher hydrocarbon production and exports propelled recovery in 2021 and lifted the current account into surplus. Rising food import prices boosted inflation. Growth is projected to remain robust in 2022 and 2023 as hydrocarbon exports sustain momentum and pandemic restrictions ease. Higher global commodity prices are expected to keep inflation elevated, while the current account surplus should expand as exports outpace imports. Higher spending on social programs is needed for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Strong recovery in industry and services boosted growth in 2021. Inflation slowed, and the current account deficit widened. In 2022 and 2023, lower investment and remittances from Russia will likely curtail private consumption and trim expansion in industry and services. Unchanged utility tariffs in 2022 and monetary tightening should reduce inflation, with lower remittances widening the current account deficit. Uzbekistan needs to mobilize green financing and engage the private sector as it transitions into a green economy.

East Asia

Buoyant domestic and external demand buttressed a growth rebound in 2021. Inflation picked up, and the current account surplus widened. Economic recovery will continue this year and next, albeit at a slower pace, given the lingering impact of the pandemic and a global growth slowdown. Inflation will rise in 2022 on continuing economic recovery, and the current account surplus will likely narrow this year and in 2023. Policy should aim to avert long-term economic scarring from recession in 2019–2020.
Economic recovery was subdued in 2021 under the continued impact of COVID-19 and border closures. Inflation accelerated, and the current account deficit widened. Growth will rise slightly in 2022 and accelerate in 2023 as the impact of the pandemic wanes. Inflation will rise and the current account deficit will widen in 2022 with the hike in import prices triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the continued border closure with the People’s Republic of China. Mongolia needs to strengthen its management of mounting contingent liabilities to reduce risk to debt sustainability.
Growth rebounded in 2021, propelled by domestic demand and exports. Inflation rose on higher prices for food and services, and the current account surplus widened as exports surged. Growth will decelerate this year and the next but remain robust, underpinned by expansion in exports and private spending. Inflation will accelerate slightly in 2022 on higher energy costs before easing in 2023, and the current account surplus will narrow relative to GDP as prices rise for imported energy products.
Growth rebounded in 2021, propelled by domestic demand and exports. Inflation rose on higher prices for food and services, and the current account surplus widened as exports surged. Growth will decelerate this year and the next but remain robust, underpinned by expansion in exports and private spending. Inflation will accelerate slightly in 2022 on higher energy costs before easing in 2023, and the current account surplus will narrow relative to GDP as prices rise for imported energy products.
With COVID-19 largely contained, economic growth accelerated in 2021, driven mainly by surges in exports and investment. Inflation rose, and the current account surplus widened relative to GDP. In 2022 and 2023, growth will moderate as the surge in investment abates, inflation will slow as supply bottlenecks are resolved and economic activity moderates, and the current account surplus will widen further. Policy action is needed to address climate change effectively and minimize damage to the economy.

South Asia

The economy faced many challenges in 2021. After a short recovery in the first quarter, aided by a pickup in services, it suffered drought, a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, and regime change that led to international isolation. These shocks may cut real GDP by as much as 30% over the medium term. Reducing dollarization is a major policy challenge.
Growth revived in fiscal 2021 on a rebound in global trade and stimulus measures—and notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 containment measures. Inflation remained moderate and the current account deficit narrowed. Growth will continue to be strong in the current and following fiscal year, but below pre-pandemic levels because growth in industrialized economies is expected to slow on disruptions from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A major policy challenge is managing climate change for ensuring inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth.
Growth rebounded moderately in 2021 as economic activity picked up on the government’s stimulus measures and steps to ease supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 restrictions following a sharp economic contraction in 2020. The progressive relaxation of containment measures, including opening the country to tourism, and continued robust policy measures will enable the economy to grow faster in 2022 and 2023. Creating a conducive environment for private sector development is a major policy challenge.
The economy rebounded strongly in fiscal 2021 following a contraction in fiscal 2020. Easing supply chain disruptions softened inflation, despite rising global oil prices, and rising domestic demand turned the current account surplus into a deficit. Growth will moderate in fiscal 2022, but remain strong, buoyed by investment. Inflation will accelerate and the current account deficit widen due to the surge in global oil prices. Improving the domestic resource mobilization of the states is a key policy challenge for sustained and inclusive growth.
Growth rebounded in 2021 on soaring tourism arrivals that reversed the country’s largest ever economic contraction in 2020. The current account deficit markedly improved last year. Tourist arrivals are expected to fall in 2022 from last year’s high because of geopolitical events, but are expected to strengthen next year. The strong economic recovery will be sustained by still substantial tourism activity and the start of construction on large public infrastructure projects. Diversifying sources of economic growth beyond tourism is a major policy challenge.
Fiscal and monetary stimulus and eased COVID-19 lockdowns enabled the economy to rebound in fiscal 2021. Inflation declined and the current account deficit markedly widened on rising imports. Growth will recover further in fiscal 2022 and 2023, underpinned by continued fiscal stimulus and wider vaccination coverage. Inflation will rise on high global oil prices and the current account deficit will widen further on rebounding investment. A major policy challenge is increasing exports from their low and stagnant base.
Growth rebounded in fiscal 2021, reflecting a substantial recovery in industry and services from well-coordinated fiscal and monetary responses to COVID-19. Improved food supply and lower domestic fuel prices trimmed inflation; strong remittances and higher exports narrowed the current account deficit. Growth is expected to slow in fiscal 2022 on tighter fiscal and monetary policy, but strengthen in fiscal 2023 as consumption and investment accelerate. Inflation will rise in the current fiscal year, driven by higher fuel prices, before receding in fiscal 2023, with the current account deficit widening in fiscal 2022 and narrowing in fiscal 2023.
Growth picked up in 2021 after contracting in the previous year. The economic performance, however, was mixed. While rising domestic demand supported the economy, growth was held back by COVID-19 outbreaks and mobility restrictions, and mounting fiscal, foreign exchange, and inflation pressures. The current account deficit widened last year. A reviving tourism industry and the global economic recovery will support activity in 2022 and 2023. But macroeconomic weaknesses will continue to keep growth muted. Preparing for population aging is a major policy challenge.

Southeast Asia

The economy contracted in 2021 largely on the reimposition of COVID-19 mobility restrictions starting in August. Unexpected supply disruptions to the oil and gas industry and delays to foreign direct investment projects cramped the economy. Growth is expected to rebound in 2022 and 2023, led by a sharp increase in oil and gas output. A key policy challenge is the diversification of fiscal revenue away from oil and gas to enhance long-term fiscal sustainability.
The economy rebounded faster than expected in 2021 due mainly to a strong recovery in light manufacturing. The current account deficit widened as the imbalance in goods trade rose, but the deficit is expected to narrow this year and next. Growth will accelerate in 2022 and 2023 as economic activity continues to pick up and return to normal. The main policy challenge is sustaining the rapid increase in light manufacturing in areas other than garments for a more resilient and diversified economy.
The economy fully recovered in 2021, despite a temporary slowdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the third quarter. Investment picked up, exports boomed, inflation was low, and the budget deficit was lower than programmed. Key reforms were implemented last year. Stronger growth is expected this year. The downside risks—the economic impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and potential COVID-19 outbreaks—are significant. The medium-term policy challenge is harnessing digitalization to raise productivity and growth.
The economy gradually recovered in 2021 from its worst contraction in decades. Growth was supported by high COVID-19 vaccination coverage. Growth in 2022 and 2023 will be underpinned by rising agriculture output, higher electricity generation, infrastructure projects, and a resumption in domestic tourism. Downside risks to the outlook are the possibility of new COVID-19 variants and inflationary pressures exacerbating an already high level of debt distress. A key policy challenge is staying on track for decarbonization commitments.
Growth recovered in 2021, supported by rising global demand for manufactured exports and terms-of-trade gains from exports of natural resources, and strong domestic demand. A robust health system and high vaccination rates against COVID-19 further supported the recovery. Rising imports from a pickup in domestic investment trimmed the current account surplus. Inflationary pressure is building on rising energy prices, the phasing out of an electricity subsidy, and continuing supply disruptions. Assisting poor households to return to the pre-pandemic norm is the major policy challenge.
Political uncertainty and the emergence of COVID-19 variants caused a broad-based contraction of the economy in fiscal 2021. The contraction is expected to continue in fiscal 2022, albeit a far less severe one. Easing political tensions and the lifting of pandemic restrictions should pave the way for a mild recovery in fiscal 2023. The current account deficit will narrow in this fiscal year on slowing imports. Achieving strong and sustained growth in agricultural production is the key policy challenge over the medium term.
The economy rebounded in 2021 on eased COVID-19 mobility restrictions and widespread vaccination coverage. Inflation accelerated and the current account turned a deficit on brisk imports. Higher growth is expected this year and next on strengthening domestic demand and reforms supporting investment. The inflation rate will rise on higher global commodity prices. A major policy challenge is expanding support to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which are playing a vital role in the economic recovery.
GDP rebounded in 2021, propelled by domestic demand and exports. Inflation accelerated and the current account surplus widened. Growth should moderate in 2022 and 2023 as global growth slows. The inflation rate will rise in 2022 on higher oil and food prices, but ease in 2023. The current account surplus will narrow as imports grow. Sustaining an adequate labor supply during the recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 poses a policy challenge.
A severe COVID-19 outbreak dragged the economy down in 2021, but the last few months of the year saw a gradual recovery and this is expected to continue into 2022 and beyond. Risks, however, remain tilted to the downside from the possibility of renewed COVID-19 outbreaks, especially of new variants, and the global economic impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine affecting the cost of living and production in Thailand. Reviving tourism—the hardest-hit sector since the start of the pandemic—is the priority policy challenge.
The economy made a weak recovery in 2021 due to a surge in COVID-19 infections and the impact of devastating floods, the worst in 40 years. The rise in international food prices stoked inflation. The economy is expected to gather momentum in 2022 with a planned rise in government spending, particularly capital expenditure. As growth will continue to be largely driven by government spending over the medium term, reforms to public financial management are the key policy challenge.
A resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic tightened labor markets, disrupted supply chains, and slowed growth in 2021. The economy is set for a strong rebound this year and next, made possible by a high vaccination rate that enabled disruptive containment measures to be dropped, trade expansion, and continued monetary and fiscal accommodation. Risks to the bright outlook are a renewed COVID-19 wave and a slower-than-expected global economic recovery. A key policy challenge is ensuring the speedy and effective implementation of the economic recovery and development program to boost growth.

The Pacific

The economy contracted for a third consecutive year in 2021, the latter 2 years under the COVID-19 pandemic. International border closures and other containment measures suppressed tourism before the border reopened in December 2021, providing hope for an economic turnaround. While necessary, safety nets and budgetary stimulus for affected businesses narrowed fiscal space despite increased grant financing from development partners. Remittances supported domestic consumption. Inflation remained benign, but recent structural and market movements may further erode purchasing power.
Growth returned in 2021 but was dampened by two COVID-19 surges worsened by a very low vaccination rate. Some relief came from strong commodity prices and fiscal stimulus sustained by development partners. Elections in 2022 will occasion additional spending, and higher mining output from the second half should accelerate growth. Rising commodity prices in 2022 will buoy the current account and inflation, both subsiding somewhat in 2023. An expanded revenue base would support economic recovery.
The economy contracted for a second year in 2021, buffeted by civil unrest and disruption to travel and trade from the pandemic. A weak economy brought deflation and expanded the current account deficit. Contraction is expected to deepen in 2022 as inflation returns and the current account deficit widens further, followed by modest growth in 2023. Forecasts assume continued easing of COVID-19 restrictions and implementation of major infrastructure projects. Financial sector development and inclusion could support long-term economic recovery.
Despite a rebound in agriculture and construction, the economy continued to contract in 2021, though less than in 2020. Inflation slowed as supply chain disruption was resolved, but the current account balance slipped into deficit as exports of services fell further. Recovery will be weak in 2022 as domestic COVID-19 transmission is likely to delay any reopening of international borders. The current account deficit is expected to persist as imports rise. Fiscal sustainability is needed to ensure resilient recovery.
All three Central Pacific economies grew in 2021, supported by increased government spending and resumed infrastructure projects. Inflation was stable in Kiribati and Nauru but rose in Tuvalu because of a one-off adjustment following a new tax law. Growth is expected to be higher in 2022 in Kiribati and Tuvalu but decelerating in Nauru. Surging global oil prices will significantly affect inflation in these import-dependent economies. With very narrow economic bases, an enduring challenge is domestic resource mobilization for fiscal sustainability.
These three island economies contracted further as travel and mobility restrictions continued to stifle tourism in Palau and trade in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. Border reopening is expected to help catalyze recovery, though an ongoing wave of Omicron variant infections poses a significant downside risk. Inflation is forecast to pick up on higher commodity prices and economic recovery. Domestic resource mobilization is critical for generating fiscal resources to support resilience and sustainable recovery.
The Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, and Tonga have only recently encountered COVID-19, with community transmission of the Omicron variant all but inevitable. In addition to other recovery challenges, fuel and other import prices have worsened inflation that was already trending up from disrupted supply chains, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely to add further price pressure. With fiscal space constrained after 2 years of crisis management, economic recovery remains vulnerable to further shocks.