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Asia’s economy will shrink for the first time since the 1960s, says ADB

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President Mitsui Fudosan Masanobu Komoda's press conference and tour of newly constructed office buildings

Photo: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg

The development of Asia’s coronavirus-hit economy will shrink for the first time since the early 1960s, with output next year still seen below pre-pandemic forecasts even as growth recovers, according toAsian Development Bank.

The region’s gross domestic product will fall by 0.7% in 2020, below the June forecast of a 0.1% increase, the Manila-based bank said in a report on Tuesday. A contraction this year would be the first since 1962, Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s chief economist, told a live broadcast.

“The economic threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic remains strong, as the first prolonged waves or repeated outbreaks could prompt further containment measures,” Sawada said. The downturns across developing Asia are more prevalent than previous crises, with three-quarters of the economies in the left region shrinking this year, he said.

The most horrible turn

Asia’s development to look worse 2020 than previous estimates, says ADB

Source: Asian Development Bank, September 2020 update

China will accept the trend and is projected to expand 1.8% this year – unchanged from the June forecast – as successful public health measures provide a springboard for growth, according to the ADB. Growth is projected to accelerate to 7.7% in 2021, from a previous forecast of 7.4%.

In India, where blockchain has blocked private spending, GDP will shrink by 9% this year, well below the June forecast of -4%, the ADB said. There were also large reductions for the Philippines and Thailand, which are now projected to contract 7.3% and 8% respectively.

Growth in developing Asia – a region that excludes advanced nations such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand – will return to 6.8% in 2021, in part because it will be measured against a weak 2020 year, Sawada said. This will leave next year’s GDP level below pre-coronavirus forecasts, implying that the recovery is only “partial” and “incomplete”.

Virus content “seems to translate into growth performance,” and a prolonged pandemic remains the biggest risk of weakening this and next year, he said.

Uneven rebound

Pandemic growth shocks, 2021 recoveries vary across region, says ADB

Source: Asian Development Bank, September 2020 update

U.S.-China trade tensions and technology conflicts and financial weaknesses amid the pandemic are also affecting growth, Sawada said.

Policies focused on protecting lives and livelihoods and ensuring a safe return to work and business resumption are essential to ensure a sustainable recovery for the region, he said.

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