, PARIS, Dec 12 – Only recently hailed as the saviours of the world economy, emerging markets had a tough year in 2013, hit by slow growth, market instability and social unrest that have worried investors – though some analysts say the fear is overblown.
In November, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rich world’s number-crunching club, lowered its global growth forecast for 2014 by nearly half a point, to 2.7 percent, because of the slowdown in emerging-market economies (EMEs).
The fate of the whole world economy is now tied to that of the emerging markets, it said.
“Contrary to the situation in the early phases of the recovery when stimulus in EMEs had positive spillovers on growth in advanced economies, the global environment may now act as an amplifier and a transmission mechanism for negative shocks from EMEs,” it said.
The European Central Bank warned: “Any sharper or more disruptive adjustment in emerging market economies needs to be closely monitored, given the potential for stronger and more persistent euro area impacts.”
The “BRICS” countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and other emerging markets had for years been the stars of the world economy, helping pull it through the Great Recession.
Their fast growth compensated for the developed world’s stagnation and their currency reserves funded Western debt.
The thirst of emerging market consumers for goods helped tide over Western companies, while their low production costs drove global trade.
But that ground to a halt in 2013.
“We were expecting it for a while, but it’s when it emerged,” Jennifer Blanke, chief economist at the World Economic Forum, told AFP.
Economic growth dropped sharply in several major emerging markets in 2013.
Russia’s growth fell from 3.4 percent in 2012 to 1.5 percent, according to International Monetary Fund data. South Africa’s fell from 2.5 percent to 2.0, Mexico’s from 3.6 percent to 1.2 and Thailand’s from 6.5 percent to 3.1.
Chris Weafer, a partner at consulting firm Macro Advisory in Moscow, said that after becoming “complacent”, investors had now woken up to the risks posed by emerging markets.
“It is a necessary change and long overdue,” he said.