MAS chief says early indications Zika could have small economic impact

Mr Ravi Menon said it was too early to assess the impact of Zika on Singapore, an international financial and transit hub.
Mr Ravi Menon said it was too early to assess the impact of Zika on Singapore, an international financial and transit hub. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The Zika virus outbreak here is not likely to hurt Singapore's economy in a big way, according to Mr Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

"It's too early to tell. You could say early indications are that there could be some small impact, but not likely to be significant for overall economic outcome," he said on Tuesday (Sept 6). "But really it's still early days," Mr Menon added.

The central banker was fielding questions from journalists at a lunch hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore.

Singapore has so far reported more than 250 cases of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe birth defects if pregnant women become infected.

The outbreak of Zika in the nation coincides with a dip in economic growth. It also comes nearly two weeks before Singapore is due to host the Formula One motor-racing Grand Prix, a major sporting and tourist draw.

Singapore last month narrowed its economic growth forecast to 1 to 2 per cent from a 1 to 3 per cent growth range previously expected, citing concerns over Brexit and weakening global demand. China, trade-dependent Singapore's top overseas market, is also experiencing lower economic growth.

In a research note, economists at OCBC bank said the Zika outbreak could have a "near-term anticipated effects on visitor arrivals and possibly even domestic consumption" in September, Reuters reported.