Pandemic to keep Asia’s growth at lowest since 1967, warns World Bank

Growth in China was expected to come in at 2% this year, boosted by government spending. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2020

Pandemic to keep Asia’s growth at lowest since 1967, warns World Bank

  • The bank said the region this year is projected to grow by only 0.9%, the lowest rate since 1967
  • The rest of the East Asia and Pacific region was projected to see a 3.5% contraction

TOKYO: The coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to the slowest growth in more than 50 years in East Asia and the Pacific as well as China, while up to 38 million people are set to be pushed back into poverty, the World Bank said in an economic update on Monday.
The bank said the region this year is projected to grow by only 0.9%, the lowest rate since 1967.
Growth in China was expected to come in at 2% this year, boosted by government spending, strong exports and a low rate of new coronavirus infections since March, but held back by slow domestic consumption.
The rest of the East Asia and Pacific region was projected to see a 3.5% contraction, the World Bank said.
The pandemic and efforts to contain its spread led to a “significant curtailment” of economic activity, the report said.
“These domestic difficulties were compounded by the pandemic-induced global recession, which hit EAP (East Asia and Pacific) economies that rely on trade and tourism hard,” it said.
Countries in the region may need to pursue fiscal reform to mobilize revenue in response to the economic and financial impact from the pandemic, while social protection programs can help support workers’ integration back into the economy, the Washington, DC-based bank said.
“Countries with well-functioning social protection programs, and good implementation infrastructure, pre-COVID, have been able to scale up more quickly during the pandemic,” it said.
The economic shock of the pandemic was also expected to lead to a jump in poverty, defined as income of $5.50 a day, the bank said, adding that based on past experience and the latest gross domestic product forecasts, poverty could expand by 33 million to 38 million people to see its first rise in 20 years.
The bank said that 33 million people who would have in the absence of the pandemic escaped poverty would remain in it this year.
“The region is confronted with an unprecedented set of challenges,” said Victoria Kwakwa, vice president for East Asia and the Pacific at the World Bank.
“But there are smart policy options available that can soften these tradeoffs — such as investing in testing and tracing capacity and durably expanding social protection to cover the poor and the informal sector.”


Lebanon plunged into ‘deliberate depression’: World Bank

Updated 01 December 2020

Lebanon plunged into ‘deliberate depression’: World Bank

  • The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year
  • Lebanon’s economy started collapsing last year as a result of years of corrupt practices and mismanagement

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economy is sinking into a “deliberate depression,” the World Bank said Tuesday in a damning report stressing the authorities’ failure to tackle the crisis.
The fall 2020 edition of the Lebanon Economic Monitor predicted the economy will have contracted by 19.2 percent this year and projected a debt-to-GDP ratio of 194 percent next year.
“A year into Lebanon’s severe economic crisis, deliberate lack of effective policy action by authorities has subjected the economy to an arduous and prolonged depression,” a World Bank statement said.
Lebanon’s economy started collapsing last year as a result of years of corrupt practices and mismanagement.
The crisis was made worse by a nationwide wave of anti-government protests that paralyzed the country late last year and the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
The August 4 Beirut port blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, brought the country to its knees and further fueled public distrust.
“Lebanon is suffering from a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, with brain drain becoming an increasingly desperate option,” the World Bank warned.
In 2020, Lebanon defaulted on its debt, banks imposed capital controls and inflation has reached triple-digit rates, dragging the country into its worst ever economic crisis.
Instead of taking emergency measures to rescue the economy, Lebanon’s political elite has continued to dither and bicker.
The previous government headed by Hassan Diab failed to adopt ambitious policies to tackle the crisis. It resigned under pressure over the blast nearly four months ago and a new cabinet has yet to be formed.
“Lack of political consensus on national priorities severely impedes Lebanon’s ability to implement long-term and visionary development policies,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank regional director.
He called for the quick formation of a new government capable of implementing short-term emergency measures and addressing long-term structural challenges.
“This is imperative to restore the confidence of the people of Lebanon,” he said.
An annual index compiled by Gallup that tracks people’s experience of stress and sadness said “no other country in the world saw negative experiences skyrocket across the board as much as Lebanon.”
The Negative Experience Index’s data was collected before the Beirut port blast, Lebanon’s worst ever peace time disaster.