Friday, February 26, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: 2010 Growth Predictions


A few weeks back the Economist magazine came out with GDP growth predictions for 2010. China was right in there at 8.5% to 9% growth for 2010, many even consider that conservative at certain sectors of the Chinese economy seem over-heated, namely housing and the stock market. I wouldn't be at all surprised if China cracked double digit figures this year, but that would depend more on the recovery of the rich world.

But what interested me most about the list was who China's competitors are in the race for the title of fastest growing country - by GDP - in the world.

First on the list was Qatar which is set to grow at 24.5% this year. That's an unbelievable number, funded mainly on natural gas but still remarkable. I don't know much about Qatar, I've never been, but I know they are close to completing the largest natural gas processing plant in the world; which is also the largest man made structure in the world. Would be a great shoot no doubt, I love construction and infrastructure photography.

Second and third on the list are Turkmenistan (11% growth) and Azerbaijan (9% growth). I visited Turkmenistan once on a three day transit visa and I can honestly say that I've never been to a more crazy place. Everyone is dirt poor and there are golden statues everywhere of their former leader who was nicknamed Turkmenbashi, or the father of all Turkmen. Turkmenistan has had a government change, since I bused my way across the country in 2003, and it seems they are opening up and developing their massive natural gas reserves. China just signed a massive pipeline deal a few weeks back. Whether any of that money filters down in to education and healthcare is a different story, it's most likely bound for Switzerland. Azerbaijan on the other hand is much less of a pariah state but suffers from much of the same cronyism. I also traveled through Baku in 2003 and found the city to be absolutely lovely, fantastic people and some stunning old architecture; but the Soviet hangover is very much in the foreground and dodgy border officials, alcoholism and violent crime still haunt Baku. It's also great that they son o the former president took over in his death, I mean, who wouldn't want to control the country's massive oil and gas reserves.

China placed forth at a perky 9%. Almost nobody talks about Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan but all the media limelight is saved for China. In the recent month they've jailed a human rights activist and put to death a British citizen; but in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan that kind of stuff happens weekly. Bad bank loans are mostly likely going to start showing up on the balance sheets of Chinese banks in the coming months; being made to lend to dodgy people with no collateral must be an incredibly liberating feeling for a Chinese banking executive. Did someone say "State Induced Bubble"? I read something the other day that indicated that 40% of the money lent out by Chinese banks in 2009 ended up in the Stock Market and the Property Market. Sound investments, and is anyone surprised that the government has kept the tap running?

In fifth place is Uzbekistan (8% growth), in sixth is Congo-Brazzaville (7.8% growth), in seventh is Angola (7%), in eight place is Ethiopia (7% growth) and in ninth place is India (7% growth), and rounding off the top ten is newly healing Sri Lanka (6.5% growth).

I guess I am pretty surprised at how many dodgy countries are growing. I felt I was always part of the majority, believing that places like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan would never amount to much; and as the elite of their countries siphon off the spoils of their countries natural resources that is more and more likely to be true. To my knowledge India is the only true Democracy on the list. Sri Lanka was a complete surprise and Angola is the top ten's biggest oil producer. Of the entire list of top ten growth countries for 2010, one might say that China has the most balanced economy. Interesting list.

Ryan Pyle

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Ryan Pyle