Developing economies across Asia are set to contract this year for the first time in nearly six decades but are likely to begin to emerge from the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus next year according to a report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) yesterday. The report, the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020 Update forecasts a GDP contraction of -0.7 percent for developing Asia this year – its first negative growth since the early 1960s.
However, the report goes on to say growth will likely rally to 6.8 percent in 2021 – in part as growth will be measured relative to a weak 2020, leaving next year’s output below pre-COVID-19 projections. With three-quarters of the regions’ economies expecting negative growth in 2020 the ADB is suggesting an “L”-shaped rather than a “V”-shaped recovery for the region.
“Most economies in the Asia and Pacific region can expect a difficult growth path for the rest of 2020. The economic threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic remains potent, as extended first waves or recurring outbreaks could prompt further containment measures. Consistent and coordinated steps to address the pandemic, with policy priorities focusing on protecting lives and livelihoods of people who are already most vulnerable, and ensuring the safe return to work and restart of business activities, will continue to be crucial to ensure the region’s eventual recovery is inclusive and sustainable,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada.
To mitigate the ongoing risk, governments in the region have delivered wide-ranging policy measures, including support packages—mainly income support—amounting to $3.6 trillion, roughly equivalent to about 15 percent of regional GDP.However, the report points out a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic remains a major biggest downside risk to the region’s economic outlook this year and next.
According to the ADB, the PRC is one of the only regional economies bucking the trend with expected grow of 1.8 percent this year and 7.7 percent next, with successful public health measures supporting growth. In India, where lockdowns have stalled consumer and business spending, the ADB estimates GDP contracted by a record 23.9 percent in the first quarter of its fiscal year and is forecast to shrink 9 percent in FY2020 before recovering by 8 percent in FY2021.
The report goes on to highlight other potential downside risks in the region arising from geopolitical tensions, including an escalation of trade and technology disputes between the United States and the PRC; as well as financial vulnerabilities exacerbated by a prolonged pandemic.