PHNOM PENH: Southeast Asian economies are forecast to grow by 5.2 percent in 2012, the chief of Asian Development Bank said Friday, though he urged nations to be “vigilant” in an uncertain global environment.

“Despite a difficult external environment, we still expect ASEAN growth this year to remain robust at 5.2 percent, above last year’s rate of 4.6 percent,” Haruhiko Kuroda told finance ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during a meeting in the Cambodian capital.

Thailand and the Philippines are likely to show “vibrant growth” after a drop in exports last year, he said, while Singapore, and to a certain extent Malaysia, will see “some slowdown” as they are more affected by external financial turmoil.

Looking ahead to 2013, the Manila-based bank expects ASEAN Gross Domestic Product to expand above 5.5 percent on the back of improved domestic demand and exports, as worries about the US and eurozone economies look set to ease.

“The region is doing well,” the ADB president said, but ASEAN nations — which also include Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar — should be on guard for “sudden shocks”.

In the short-term, the countries face high oil prices, volatile capital inflows which could hurt exporters, and the “serious risks” still posed by Europe’s woes, Kuroda said.

“Should financial panic happen, contagion could spread and liquidity tighten,” he added.

“Given today’s uncertain environment, it is extremely important to remain vigilant in monitoring global events.”

Kuroda said ASEAN nations should consolidate growth momentum by pushing for greater cooperation and financial integration and reducing their reliance on the US and Europe to drive exports. – AFP/ir