SINGAPORE – Private sector economists are less optimistic now about the Singapore economy, expecting it to grow 2.1 per cent in 2019, a lower forecast from an earlier prediction of 2.5 per cent in March.

Their expectations declined for a number of sectors including manufacturing, finance and insurance, wholesale and retail trade, and accommodation and food services.

They are most pessimistic about the manufacturing sector, expecting it to contract by 0.2 per cent, down from an earlier estimate of 2 per cent growth in March.

Construction is the only sector that brooked optimism, with a growth estimate of 3.5 per cent, up from 2.1 per cent in March, according to the latest quarterly survey of professional forecasters by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, released on Wednesday (June 12).

The economists’ gloomier expectations follow the Trade and Industry Ministry’s predictions last month when it narrowed the growth forecast to between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent, down from 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

Trade protectionism remains the top concern by economists who took part in the survey, with more agreeing than in March. A further slowdown in China was the next biggest worry, followed by the global downturn.

Economists said an easing of trade tensions between the United States and China could contribute towards a stronger than expected growth in Singapore. Other potential bright spots are the strengthening tech cycle, followed by growth in China and the easing of financial conditions.

Expectations for overall inflation and core inflation dipped. Respondents expect overall inflation to come in at 0.9 per cent, down from an earlier prediction of 1.1 per cent in March.

They also expect the Singapore currency to slightly weaken against the greenback, from $1.35 to $1.368.

A total of 22 private sector economists and analysts responded to the survey conducted last month.