SOTR Covid CoverRespondents to a PECC survey do not anticipate a swift rebound from the crisis in 2021 with growth levels for the Asia-Pacific remaining below 2019 levels for the next 3-5 years.

The survey of 710 policy experts from business, academia, government and civil society was conducted from 19 May to 12 June, 2020. An analysis of the responses also provides insights for further commentary on the regional outlook and the strategies available for transitioning out of the current situation.

One of the great uncertainties is when and how to leave the lockdowns that have been the first response to the virus that would help to restart economic growth.

The response was clear - the top pre-conditions for leaving from lockdown were all related to public health issues such as the medical capacity to deal with the number of cases and evidence that number of new cases was reducing. After the medical conditions came the economic considerations and the need for international cooperation highlighting the nature of the pandemic as a global concern.

“The extraordinarily pessimistic view amongst respondents has important consequences. International cooperation would send a strong signal about the future even as governments and societies deal with the crisis. Without a vision to provide a long-term strategic framework for regional governments and stakeholders to plan for the future, there is a risk that the recovery will be much slower than need be” said Mr Eduardo Pedrosa, one of the authors of the report.

One immediate set of short-term signals will come as APEC convenes regional trade ministers to discuss their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Trade has been an essential part of the toolkit for dealing for the pandemic. Keeping borders open is and facilitating the movement of these products is part of the pandemic response,” said Christopher Findlay from the Australian National University, co-author of the report.

Another recommendation was to build better information about where medical supplies are and their supply chains. The breakdown in supply chains, the surge in demand as well as the adoption of export restrictions during the crisis has made this a problematic issue. The report suggests the creation of a Medical Equipment Market Information System.

Furthermore, even when medical supplies are available they need to be transported across the world and those shipments are done by people working along the supply chain – air and sea crew. The lack of international agreements on the movement of essential workers could lead to blockages in these supply chains.

Respondents identified lasting consequences of the Covid-19 crisis for business in the region. A total of 98% agreed that the crisis would lead to the accelerated growth of the digital economy. While the digital economy has been a lifeline for millions during the crisis, millions more are at risk of exclusion with restrictive policies and the lack of international cooperation slowing the adoption of technology.

 “Unlike previous economic crises, connectivity has been badly hit. To stop the spread of the virus borders have been closed and as the report shows this has had repercussion not only for tourism but also trade. Conversely people have become even more connected via digital platforms. This makes progress on the region’s agenda for connectivity an enormous challenge – to keep people safe as economies re-open and to promote economic growth. Amidst unprecedented challenges, we should call for stronger international cooperation and grasp new opportunities,” said Ambassador Su Ge, co-chair of PECC.

 “The findings the report make it clear that what is needed is a long-term strategic plan for the region. Prior to the crisis we were working on a post-2020 vision for the Asia-Pacific – the exigencies of the crisis make that vision all the more important. Millions of people and business are out of work and as shown by the results of our survey, people are pessimistic. A vision that makes it clear that regional economies will stay the course towards reform in the pursuit of sustainable and inclusive growth will provide a strong signal for stakeholders,” said Don Campbell, co-chair of PECC.

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Pacific Currents

Digital Technologies, Services and the Fourth Industrial Revolutions
Submitted by Jane Drake-Brockman, Christopher Findlay, Yose Rizal Damuri and Sherry Stephenson 

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