Conditions in the region and the rest of the world have changed dramatically since the April 2020 Regional Economic Update (World Bank 2020a). In addition to still unfolding unprecedented health crisis, the world is now experiencing the deepest global recession since the Second World War (World Bank 2020b). The global economy is projected to contract by 5.2 percent this year, with output in emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) shrinking by 2.5 percent—the first contraction in at least sixty years. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant loss of life and has had severe economic effects on the developing East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region. Many governments have responded to the pandemic-induced shock with sizable fiscal and monetary support. Although subject to significant uncertainty, regional growth is expected to rebound to [6.6 percent] in 2021 as the pandemic subsides, remaining restrictions are lifted, and global demand recovers. The pandemicinduced crisis will likely hit hardest the poorest and most vulnerable countries and communities, [putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) further out of reach]. The dynamics of the shock mean that in 2020 the region will experience the widest output gaps in decades. Absent of sift and effective actions, the pandemic will slow potential growth in the region by weakening investment, human capital, and the supply chains that have been an important conduit for productivity gains over the past decade.
"Long COVID: Scars and Opportunity." The title of this report has two meanings. First, that the disease will leave in its wake a durably damaged economy. Second, that the disease is not leaving any time soon and may be here to stay. This duality reflects the two themes of this Update. In the near time, the persistence of the pandemic will prolong human and economic distress unless individuals and firms can adapt. In the longer-term, COVID-19 will reduce growth and increase inequality unless we can remedy the scars and grasp the opportunities created by the pandemic. Accordingly, policy action must help economic agents not just to adjust today but also to make choices that avert economic sluggishness and disparity tomorrow. We begin by addressing three proximate questions: What is happening to the economies? Why? And what can we expect? We then discuss the longer-term impact of COVID-19, on growth through the impact on firms and on inequality through the impact on households.
A year after the first case was confirmed in Wuhan COVID-19 is proving hard to suppress even, while the emergence of more transmissible variants of the variant poses new challenges to the containment of the disease globally. The economies of the region began to bounce back in the second half of 2020. However, only China and Vietnam have followed a V-shape recovery path with output surpassing pre-COVID-19 levels. Most of the other countries have not seen a full-fledged recovery in terms of either output or growth momentum. Economic performance across countries continues to depend on (i) the efficiency with which the virus is contained; (ii) the ability to take advantage of the revival in international goods trade; and (iii) the capacity of governments to provide fiscal and monetary support. China and Vietnam are expected to enjoy strong growth in 2021, whereas other economies in the region will grow more gradually. Many economies, especially in the Pacific islands are not expected to reach pre-COVID-19 levels of output until 2022 or later. Governments in the region need to work cooperatively to address three key issues: (i) a regional and global distribution of vaccines that minimizes the risk of a continued spread of COVID-19 and its variants; (ii) continue to provide economic support to their economies while carefully evaluating the trade-offs between the need for further stimulus and debt sustainability; and (iii) enact policies and prioritize investments that protect against climate risk to ensure sustainable economic growth.
"Despite some financial turbulence, growth in developing East Asia and Pacific (EAP) was resilient during the first half of 2018. The growth outlook for the region remains positive. After peaking in 2017, growth in developing EAP is expected to slow modestly in 2018, as China's economic expansion continues to moderate. However, downside risks have significantly intensified. An escalation in trade tensions and heightened financial market turbulence, either due to an acceleration in U.S. monetary policy normalization or contagion from other emerging markets could threaten the region's growth prospects. To navigate uncertainty, developing EAP economies should reduce short-term vulnerabilities and enhance buffers, redouble their commitment to an open, rules-based international trade and investment framework, including through deeper regional economic integration, and deepen structural reforms. The intensification of risks underscores the need to continue to enhance economic security by investing in human capital and strengthen social assistance and insurance programs to increase households' resilience to systemic shocks."
East Asia and the Pacific does not so far conform to the current narrative of stagflation. The region, with some exceptions, is growing faster and has lower inflation than other regions. And prospects for several countries have improved, as they bounced back from the distress of the Delta wave in a still buoyant global economy. But this rosy picture must not obscure four impediments to inclusive and sustainable growth: disease, deceleration, debt, and distortions. In particular, current policies to contain inflation and debt are distorting the markets for food, fuel and finance in ways that could compromise development goals. In each case, more efficient measures could address current difficulties without undermining longer term objectives.
Growth in the developing East Asia and Pacific region slowed in the first half of 2019 given weakening global demand and heightened policy uncertainty amid ongoing trade tensions. Steady consumption growth helped to partly offset the effects of weakening exports and investment on growth. The region’s growth prospects face intensified downside risks, including further escalation of trade disputes, a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China, the United States and the Euro Area, along with a disorderly Brexit, and an abrupt change in global financing conditions. In some countries, rising indebtedness and other vulnerabilities, such as the constrained capacity for foreign debt rollover, could amplify the negative effects of external shocks. The regional growth moderation underscores the need to address key vulnerabilities and preserve economic dynamism among developing East Asia and Pacific economies. In the short run, countries with sufficient policy space should use available policy tools to stimulate domestic activities. Better quality spending, together with prudent debt management, is needed to safeguard fiscal sustainability. Deepening regional integration would help offset the negative impact of global protectionism. In the medium to long term, pursuing structural reforms that raise competitiveness, support trade and investment, and encourage innovation is critical to boosting productivity and growth.
In China, growth will gradually moderate, reflecting intensified policy efforts to address financial vulnerabilities and structural constraints, and place the economy on a more sustainable growth path. In the rest of the region, growth will pick up, as exports firm in line with strengthening global activity, and the impact of domestic adjustment in large ASEAN countries eases. Significant uncertainties remain about the sustainability of the global recovery, and global financial conditions are likely to tighten. The short-term priority in several countries is to address the vulnerabilities and inefficiencies created by an extended period of loose financial conditions and fiscal stimulus. In China, the authorities need to strike a balance between containing growing risks from rising leverage and meeting the indicative growth targets. Over the longer term, the focus in most countries must be on structural reforms to enhance export competitiveness. The report’s special section focuses on education & skills development; international migration; and the policy priorities for the Pacific Island Countries.
The economic outlook for the developing EAP region remains positive, and will benefit from an improved external environment as well as strong domestic demand. The growth of regional GDP excluding China is forecast to accelerate in 2018, while China's GDP growth is expected to decline in 2018 and 2019, although remain higher than most countries in the region. Poverty is projected to continue its long-term decline. Major downside risks include financial sector vulnerabilities, large fiscal imbalances, and the possible escalation of geopolitical tensions. The improved outlook for global growth provides a window of opportunity for developing EAP to continue to reduce key vulnerabilities and strengthen the foundations for sustained and inclusive growth in the medium term. The region could also benefit from further developing tourism sectors and deepening of regional integration, to offset the emerging global protectionism. And policies to ensure inclusive growth should involve ensuring economic mobility and security for all, going beyond the primary focus on reducing poverty.
Investing in One Health – cross-sectoral, multidisciplinary coordination and collaboration across the human health, animal health, and environmental health sectors – is crucial for maintaining healthy agricultural and food systems and addressing global health security risks. Such action can reduce the threat of future pandemics through upstream preventive actions, early detection, and agile responses to zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases outbreaks, coupled with measures for promoting food safety, including anti-microbial resistance. This regional review, conducted jointly by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, assesses the socioeconomic impacts of zoonotic diseases and epidemics across the East Asia and Pacific region, providing a background on why emerging infectious diseases are occurring more frequently in this region. This review looks at the benefits of using a risk-based approach, assesses the management of animal and wildlife health and the ability to identify and respond to emerging threats and protect the health, agricultural production, and ecosystem services. It provides recommendations on priority activities to be undertaken, and offers governments and their development partners the evidence and analysis needed to make more and better investments in wildlife systems and animal health to improve global health security.
Despite global economic volatility, growth in developing East Asia and Pacific (EAP) was resilient during 2018, and in the first quarter of 2019. The growth outlook for developing EAP is expected to soften in 2019, as China's economic expansion continues to moderate. Downside risks remain, including expected moderated global demand, continued trade tensions, the risk of a faster-thanexpected financial tightening in developed economies, the risk of weaker-than-expected growth in China, and continued financial market volatility. Also, or in combination, these risks could weigh on the· region's growth prospects in the short-to-medium term. To manage global and regional headwinds, developing EAP economies should reduce short-term vulnerabilities and enhance buffers, redouble their commitment to an open, rules-based international trade and investment framework, including through deeper regional economic integration, and deepen structural reforms. The intensification of risks underscores the need to continue to enhance economic security by investing in human capital and strengthen social assistance.