The health and economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has afflicted more than two million people globally, with 40 percent coming from the APEC region, according to a new policy brief by the APEC Policy Support Unit.
The policy brief, entitled “APEC in the Epicentre of COVID-19,” breaks down the vast and unparalleled impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods of people and small businesses, which account for 97 percent of all firms in the region.
The APEC region’s growth is expected to decline by 2.7 percent this year, compared to the 3.6 percent growth in 2019, making it the most significant drop since the near-zero growth rate recorded in 2009 during the global financial crisis.
This reduction in growth translates to an estimated output loss of USD 2.1 trillion due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. This is compounded by an additional 23 million people becoming unemployed in 2020.
“The APEC region is on the frontlines for meeting this challenge because member economies are among the first and worst affected by the pandemic,” said APEC Secretariat Executive Director, Dr Rebecca Sta Maria. “A crisis of unprecedented severity calls for a response of unprecedented scale.”
The policy brief projects an economic rebound in 2021, with the APEC region anticipated to grow by 6.3 percent, higher than the projected global economic growth of 5.8 percent.
“As hopeful as it looks, the rebound is conditional on the effectiveness of members’ containment mechanisms to avoid a further wave of the pandemic later this year,” said APEC Policy Support Unit Director, Denis Hew.
The unprecedented shock to the global economy requires a well-targeted and coordinated regional response towards socioeconomic recovery, including greater support for healthcare systems and increased social protection.
The APEC region has an average of 4.1 hospital beds, 1.9 physicians, and 3.9 nurses or midwives per 1,000 people. While these figures have improved since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the current capacity of health systems is insufficient considering significantly higher infection rates and the uncertainty of the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All 21 APEC member economies are rolling out significant and targeted fiscal measures ranging from 1 percent to 20 percent of gross domestic product to address the impact of COVID-19, including assistance for the unemployed and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Member economies quickly rose to the challenge by introducing fiscal and monetary measures,” said Sta Maria. “The focus now is for members to come together for coordinated multilateral cooperation to support our people and small businesses.”
“Only by working together will we be better equipped to weather this pandemic and fast track our recovery.”
Regional and international organizations such as APEC have a key role to play in ensuring that members continue to exchange relevant public health information including updates on containment measures, and the development of testing kits, treatments and vaccines. Regional cooperation can likewise contribute to improving healthcare access and capacity among member economies.
The policy brief also recommends that APEC members should work to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical goods and food. This includes eliminating trade-restrictive measures on essential goods to help with the response to the crisis and eventual recovery.
Zero emission economy will lead to 15 million new jobs by 2030 in Latin America and Caribbean
In a new groundbreaking study , the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that the transition to a net-zero emission economy could create 15 million net new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. To support a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic , the region urgently needs to create decent jobs and build a more sustainable and inclusive future.
The report finds that the transition to a net-zero carbon economy would end 7.5 million jobs in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated for new employment opportunities: 22.5 million jobs are created in agriculture and plant-based food production, renewable electricity, forestry, construction, and manufacturing.
The report is also the first of its kind to highlight how shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets, which reduce meat and dairy consumption while increasing plant-based foods, would create jobs and reduce pressure on the region’s unique biodiversity. With this shift, LAC’s agri-food sector could expand the creation of 19 million full-time equivalent jobs despite 4.3 million fewer jobs in livestock, poultry, dairy and fishing.
Moreover, the report offers a blueprint on how countries can create decent jobs and transition to net-zero emissions. This includes policies facilitating the reallocation of workers, advance decent work in rural areas, offer new business models, enhance social protection and support to displaced, enterprises, communities and workers.
Social dialogue between the private sector, trade unions, and governments is essential to design long-term strategies to achieve net-zero emissions, which creates jobs, helps to reduce inequality and delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals .
Women Gain Key Economic Benefits from Greater Trade
Trade increases women’s wages and helps close the wage gap between men and women while creating better jobs for women, a new World Bank Group report concludes. Countries that are open to international trade tend to grow faster, innovate, improve productivity, and provide higher income and more opportunities to their people. Countries that are more open to trade, as measured by the trade-to-GDP ratio, have higher levels of gender equality.
The report, produced in collaboration with the World Trade Organization, marks the first major effort to quantify how women are affected by trade using a new gender-disaggregated dataset. The dataset, developed by the World Bank Group, allows researchers to understand how women are employed, in which industries they work, how much they earn, and whether or not they are involved in global trade. This analysis helps governments see how trade policies can affect women and men differently.
“Over the past 30 years trade has been the engine of poverty reduction. This report shows that, provided the right policies are in place, it can also provide an engine to reduce the gender gap,” said World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu. “Trade can expand women’s role in the economy and decrease disparities with men by giving women more and better employment opportunities. Seizing these opportunities will be even more important in a post-COVID-19 world.”
The report, Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Women’s Equality, offers several key findings. Firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs) employ a greater percentage of women (33 percent) relative to non-GVC firms (24 percent). When countries open themselves to trade, women’s share of wages in the manufacturing sector increase by 5.8 percentage points on average. When women are employed in sectors with high exports, they are more likely to be formally employed. Formal employment means better job benefits, training, and job security.
The report also highlights the importance of addressing discrimination against women in trade policy. Although no country overtly imposes tariffs according to gender, implicit biases can amount to “pink tariffs” that put women at an economic disadvantage. The report shows that products specifically consumed by women face a higher tariff burden than men’s products. In the textile sector, for instance, tariffs on women’s apparel are US$2.77 billion higher than on men’s clothing, a consumption gap that grew about 11 percent in real terms between 2006 and 2016. Disparities like this can hurt women consumers all over the world.
Targeted policies can help women maximize the benefits of trade. These include removing trade barriers that impede women’s access to international markets and improving women’s access to education, financial services, and digital technologies. Governments can design trade facilitation measures that remove gender-specific barriers to trade. These measures could address burdensome customs requirements, limited access to trade finance, and exposure to extortion or physical harassment at borders.
Amid economic slowdown, strategic approach needed for Nepal’s resilient recovery
Economic growth is estimated to contract sharply to 2.1% in FY2021 from the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown, despite efforts by the government to curb the economic fallout from the crisis, states the World Bank’s latest Nepal Development Update. Transitioning the economy from the relief stage through to restructuring and resilient recovery requires a strategic approach to get the country back on a sustainable and inclusive growth path.
As per the report, economic activity in the tourism sector will remain weak and remittances inflows will be moderate. Supply chain disruptions will keep industrial and agricultural production low. Low economic activity and oil prices will also keep imports low and below the pre-crisis levels, leading to a projected narrowing of the current account deficit to 6.5 percent of GDP. Lower imports will continue to limit revenue collection. However, fiscal measures announced as part of the FY2021 budget, including a revision of custom duties, will provide some support to the budget as spending levels on relief and recovery efforts remain elevated. Taken together, the fiscal deficit is projected to marginally decline to 6.6 percent of GDP in FY2021.
While the government has adopted various relief measures to contain the pandemic, reduce the impact on households and provide economic support to the most vulnerable firms, the report highlights the importance of reforms to support a resilient recovery.
“For a resilient recovery and inclusive growth, economic support measures to firms and workers in the informal sector will be important,” said Dr. Kene Ezemenari, World Bank Senior Economist and author of the update. “Incentives to agribusiness-based and forest-based SMEs, with a focus on returnee migrants and youths, could help increase employment and food security. Inclusive growth could be further promoted through entrepreneurship support programs and grants to small and medium enterprises,” she added.
The report outlines four pillars in the areas of health, social support, economic support and cross-cutting priorities including fiscal sustainability and focus on digital and green economies. This includes measures to strengthen the health system and scale up social protection systems, including the adoption of a social registry to make these systems more resilient against future shocks. Enhanced school sanitation and health protocols including health screening, water and sanitation facilities would be needed to enable a return to schooling for children.
“In the rapidly unfolding global scenario brought by COVID-19, insights from the Nepal Development Update on Nepal’s outlook, challenges and way forward is very helpful. We need to address the crisis with macroeconomic and sectoral policy focused on fiscal sustainability, financial sector stability, a digitally-oriented green economy and resilient public services,” stated Honorable Minister of Finance, Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada. “I appreciate the rapid action taken by our development partners including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IMF and others for providing us with tangible resources and support to maintain our fiscal balance and accelerate growth and inclusive development.”
Expansionary fiscal and monetary policies will be important in the initial relief stage to support banking sector liquidity and provide relief to households and firms. From restructuring through to resilience, expansionary and monetary policies will help pave the way for strengthening financial sector stability in the long run while also building resilient public services and green growth through sustainable and resilient infrastructure, strengthened solid waste management and air and water pollution control.
Related investments and reforms would be critical to expand coverage of digital services and infrastructure to support e-services and help promote e-commerce. This would also help expand the reach and coverage of mobile banking and digital financial services to underpin development of e-commerce. However, digitization is also limited across the economy. Addressing this will require removal of access restrictions to any under-utilized fiber optic backbone managed by the governments and public utilities and the introduction of appropriate rules to manage conditions of access, capacity allocation, and access pricing. This would also help expand access in rural and remote areas.
“For Nepal to emerge stronger from the crisis, it is important to adapt quickly to the new reality,” stated Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “We are encouraged to note the early start made by the government with the development of Nepal’s Relief, Restructuring and Resilience plan and are committed to work together with multilateral development banks and development partners in helping the country build back greener and better.”
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