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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

Fall 2021 Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific--Navigating Waves of New Variants: Pandemic Resurgence Slows the Recovery

Alexandra Fotiou and Andresa Lagerborg
Following the Great Lockdown in 2020, it is important to take stock of lessons learned. How effective have different containment measures been in slowing the spread of Covid-19? Have containment measures been costly in terms of economic growth, fiscal balances, and accumulated debt? This paper finds that countries with previous SARS experience acted fast and "smart", and were able to contain the virus by relying mainly on public health measures ─ testing, contact tracing, and public information campaigns ─ rather than stay-at-home requirements. Using past coronavirus outbreaks as an instrumental variable, we show that countries with past experience were able to contain the virus in a smart way, reducing transmission and deaths while also experiencing higher economic growth in 2020.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.

Abstract

The global economy is climbing out from the depths to which it had plummeted during the Great Lockdown in April. But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread, many countries have slowed reopening and some are reinstating partial lockdowns to protect susceptible populations. While recovery in China has been faster than expected, the global economy’s long ascent back to pre-pandemic levels of activity remains prone to setbacks.

Ms. Emilia M Jurzyk, Medha Madhu Nair, Nathalie Pouokam, Tahsin Saadi Sedik, and Mrs. Irina Yakadina
The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating inequality in Asia. High frequency labor surveys show that the pandemic is having particularly adverse effects on younger workers, women and people that are more vulnerable. Pandemics have been shown to increase inequalities. As a result, income inequality, which was already high and rising in Asia before the pandemic, is likely to rise further over the medium term, unless policies succeed in breaking this historical pattern. Many Asian governments have implemented significant fiscal policy measures to mitigate the pandemic’s effect on the most vulnerable, with the impact depending on the initial coverage of safety nets, fiscal space, and degree of informality and digitalization. The paper includes model-based analysis which shows that policies targeted to where needs are greatest are effective in mitigating adverse distributional consequences and underpinning overall economic activity and virus containment.
Jochen M. Schmittmann
Non-deliverable forward (NDF) markets in many Asian emerging market currencies are large, rapidly growing, and often exceed onshore markets in transaction volume. NDFs tend to price significant depreciation during market stress episodes including COVID-19. Spillovers from NDFs to onshore markets are a policymaker concern. Our analysis shows that influences tend to run both ways after controlling for differences in timezones between markets. For the COVID-19 pandemic there is some evidence of NDFs leading onshore markets for a few currencies. Policy approaches to NDFs vary widely across Asia from close integration with onshore markets to severe restrictions on NDF trading.
Anh Thi Ngoc Nguyen
In this paper, we review developments in Japanese inbound tourism and investigate the main determinants of its rapid growth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a panel autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) model with data on 34 tourism source markets from 1996Q1 to 2018Q4, we find that not only tourist income and tourism-related relative prices, also visa policies have had significant impacts on Japan’s inbound tourism demand in the long run. In the short run, natural disasters have had large and prolonged effects on tourism. We then derive policy implications for the post-COVID-19 revival of Japanese inbound tourism.
Reda Cherif and Fuad Hasanov
A universal testing and isolation policy is the most viable way to vanquish a pandemic. Its implementation requires: (i) an epidemiological rather than clinical approach to testing, sacrificing accuracy for scalability, convenience and speed; and (ii) state intervention to ramp up production, similar to True Industrial Policy (TIP), on a global level to achieve a scale and speed the market alone would fail to provide. We sketch a strategy to tackle market failures and implement smart testing, especially in densely populated areas. The estimated cost of testing is dwarfed by its return, mitigating the economic fallout of the pandemic.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This paper discusses St. Lucia’s Request for Disbursement Under the Rapid Credit Facility. IMF financing support provides resources to the countries’ authorities for essential health-related expenditures and income support to ease the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on the population. In order to address the pandemic, the authorities announced measures to help employees and households, including income support to the unemployed, tax relief, and providing cash transfers to the most vulnerable and affected. The countries’ governments have responded to the pandemic by swiftly implementing containment measures, allocating scarce budgetary resources to critical health care spending, and introducing income support to the most affected sectors and households. Protection of the financial system will help cushion the economic impact of the pandemic. Measures have also been taken by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to facilitate the provision of credit and safeguard financial stability. The IMF will continue to be engaged with Dominica, Grenada, and St. Lucia, and stands ready to provide policy advice and further support as needed.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.
This paper presents The Gambia’s First Review of the Staff-Monitored Program and Request for a 39-Month Arrangement Under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). The IMF-supported program aims to help The Gambia to be better prepared for external shocks, pursue high and inclusive growth, lessen debt vulnerabilities, strengthen public financial management, and bolster domestic revenue mobilization. The ECF arrangement is essential to help the authorities deal with the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. The Gambian authorities’ commitment to prudent policies and institutional improvements has supported robust economic growth, while voluntary debt service deferrals from their main external creditors have helped attain debt sustainability. The authorities should remain committed to fiscal consolidation in the medium-term to ensure debt sustainability. The vulnerabilities identified in the 2019 Financial Sector Stability Assessment should be addressed to ensure soundness of the financial sector and improve legal and supervisory framework for banking supervision. The authorities should leverage the financial inclusion strategy, including through mobile banking, while strengthening the oversight of nonbanking institutions and monitoring of risks involved in mobile banking.