Economic activity in developing Asia is forecast to contract by 0.4% this year, before picking up to 6.8% in 2021 as the region moves toward recovery from the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) today.
The new growth forecast, presented in a regular supplement to the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020 Update, is an improvement from the -0.7% gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast in September, while the outlook for 2021 remains unchanged. But prospects are diverging within the region, with East Asia set to grow this year while other subregions are contracting.
“The outlook for developing Asia is showing improvement. Growth projections have been upgraded for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India, the region’s two largest economies,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada. “A prolonged pandemic remains the primary risk, but recent developments on the vaccine front are tempering this. Safe, effective, and timely vaccine delivery in developing economies will be critical to support the reopening of economies and the recovery of growth in the region.”
Pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions have been eased in varying levels in the region, with merchandise exports rebounding quickly from substantial declines in the second quarter. Mobility is also returning to pre-COVID-19 levels in East Asia and the Pacific, where the spread of COVID-19 has largely been contained or prevented in recent months. A recovery in tourism, however, is likely to be delayed.
Most of developing Asia’s subregions are forecast to contract this year. East Asia is the exception, with an upgraded growth forecast of 1.6% for 2020 on the back of faster than expected recoveries in the PRC and Taipei,China. East Asia’s growth outlook for 2021 is maintained at 7.0%.
South Asia’s GDP is forecast to contract by 6.1% in 2020, revised up from the 6.8% contraction expected in September. Growth in South Asia is forecast to rebound to 7.2% in 2021. The growth forecast for India, the subregion’s largest economy, for fiscal year (FY) 2020 is raised to -8.0%, from the -9.0% projection in September, while outlook for FY2021 is kept at 8.0%.
Economic growth in Southeast Asia remains under pressure as COVID-19 outbreaks and containment measures continue, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The subregion’s growth forecast for 2020 is revised down to -4.4% from -3.8% in September. The subregion’s outlook for 2021 is also downgraded, with Southeast Asia now expected to grow 5.2% next year compared to the 5.5% growth forecast in September.
The outlook for the Pacific is unchanged for both 2020 and 2021 at -6.1% and 1.3%, respectively. Central Asia’s growth forecast for 2020 remains at -2.1%, but outlook for 2021 is slightly downgraded to 3.8% from the 3.9% growth projection in September.
Regional inflation is expected to marginally ease to 2.8% in 2020, from the 2.9% projected in September, due to depressed demand and low oil prices. Inflation for 2021 is forecast at 1.9%, down from 2.3% forecast in September. Oil prices are retained at $42.50 per barrel in 2020 before increasing to $50.00 per barrel in 2021.
ADO, ADB’s annual flagship economic publication, is published every April, with an Update published in September and brief supplements published normally in July and December. Developing Asia refers to the 46 developing members of ADB.
Citizens globally affirm belief in international cooperation
People worldwide have overwhelmingly highlighted their faith in multilateralism to address global challenges, the results of a year-long survey by the United Nations have shown.
The UN75 initiative was launched by Secretary-General António Guterres, in January last year, to understand the global public’s hopes and fears for the future, as well as their expectations and ideas for international cooperation, and for the UN in particular. More than 1.5 million people from 195 countries took part in the campaign through surveys and dialogues.
“That represents a very strong commitment to multilateralism, and to the mission of the United Nations. Now it is up to us – Member States and the UN Secretariat – to meet the expectations of the people we serve,” he added.
Unity across groups and regions
Announcing the findings at the UN Office at Geneva on Friday, Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the commemoration of UN’s 75th anniversary, said that together with UN75 conversations and surveys, innovative methodologies and artificial intelligence analysis were employed to gauge world opinion, including through traditional and social media.
In addition, two independent surveys were commissioned around the same questions to have a “reality check”, and the results were striking, he continued.
Unity, across generations, regions income groups, and levels of education, was one such striking result, Mr. Hochschild highlighted, explaining that opinions were united when it came to people’s hopes and fears for their future, and their expectations of international cooperation.
In the immediate priorities post-COVID-19, the world is united in wanting much better access to affordable basic services, healthcare, quality education, water and sanitation, and related is the world seeks much greater solidarity with the hardest hit communities and places, he added.
Launched to mark the Organization’s 75th anniversary, the exercise was the UN’s most ambitious effort to date to gather input from the global public, and the largest survey on priorities for recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the coronavirus pandemic reversing progress in human development and widening inequalities, many respondents prioritized access to basic services and support to the hardest hit places and communities in the short-term, according to the results.
The top immediate, short-term priority globally was universal access to healthcare.
In addition, given the impact of the crisis on children and education, greater investments in education and youth programmes ranked high among respondents, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and central and southern Asia.
Similarly, while people expect access to health services to improve over the next 25 years, respondents in all regions identified climate change and environmental issues as the number one long-term global challenge.
Other longer-term priorities vary according to income levels, but include rising concern with employment opportunities, respect for human rights and reducing conflict.
Respondents in higher human development countries tended to give the highest priority to the environment and human rights, those in lower human development countries tended to accord the highest priority to less conflict and meeting basic needs, such as employment, healthcare and education.
Many respondents also looked to the United Nations to lead in international cooperation to address immediate and longer-term global challenges, the results showed, with many also want the Organization to innovate – to be more inclusive, engaged, accountable and effective.
In surveys and UN75 dialogues held around the world, participants called on the UN for moral leadership; a more reformed, representative and agile Security Council; and an inclusive and participatory UN system, with improved understanding of the work of the Organization among citizens around the world, and which shows more care for the needs of the people.
World Bank Signs $105 Million Project to Improve Waterways in West Bengal
The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the World Bank today signed a $105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal.
The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project will facilitate passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly river; undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area; enhance the quality of life of its residents; and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector.
“Inland waterways are now emerging as a cost effective and an environment friendly option for passenger and freight movement,” said C S Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. “This Project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in West Bengal and help in the economic development of the state by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centers in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area,” he added.
The agreement was signed by C S Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; Rajdeep Dutta, Deputy Resident Commissioner on behalf of the Government of West Bengal; and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration — the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) where around 30 million people or one-third of West Bengal’s population live.
“This operation will allow the state to invest in Kolkata’s economic productivity by making its waterways and ferry services part of an efficient and safe urban mobility strategy,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. “Importantly, given Kolkata’s strategic location, the project is also ensuring that the metropolitan area emerges as a transport and logistics hub for the sub-region, leveraging the EDFC and connecting to the north-east and the land-locked countries of Nepal and Bhutan.”
The Hooghly river, a distributary of the river Ganga, in Kolkata separates the Kolkata port from its large consumption centers, which are, its wholesale market and its vast hinterland comprising among others the entire North East of India and two landlocked neighboring countries namely, Nepal and Bhutan. More than 80 percent of freight and passenger traffic currently cross the river via Kolkata’s three bridges. To curtail congestion, the city has restricted the movement of trucks to the port to certain bridges and only during limited hours, reducing access to the port and increasing the cost of logistics.
West Bengal’s ferries can provide an efficient, flexible mode of public transport for both passengers and freight, saving on operating costs and travel time when compared with road journeys. The existing ferry system, operational for decades, caters to less than 2 percent of the passenger traffic and a small portion of the freight movement. Developing the river transport infrastructure will enable a large population of the state to utilize its waterways, have alternative, multi-modal options for transportation for both freight and passengers, connect the hinterland with Kolkata Metropolitan Area’s markets and job centers and emerge as a logistics hub.
In the first phase, the project will enhance the capacity and improve the safety of the Inland Water Transport system; including rehabilitating existing jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design; and installing electronic gates in 40 locations. In the second phase, it will support long-term investments for passenger movements, including in terminals and jetties; improve the design of the inland water transport vessels; ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and trafficked routes and crossing points; and encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across the Hooghly river.
“Such long-term planning will not only help the city improve passenger and freight transport, but allow it to utilize its waterfront and enable more efficient land use and urban planning,” said Fuad Malkawi, Senior Urban Development Specialist and Natalya Stankevich, Senior Transport Specialist and task team leaders for the project. “Improving ferry services is also critical for some of the most disadvantaged community groups who are dependent on IWT,” they added.
To better cope with increased precipitation and flooding, climate-smart engineering solutions will be applied, including modular floating designs for ferry access points at the passenger terminals. In addition, the project will facilitate disable-friendly amenities, ensure women’s safety and encourage women’s employment in the IWT Department as well as with the ferry operators.
The $105 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of 7 years.
Reforming Lebanon’s Port Sector to Build Back a Better Port of Beirut
Reforming Lebanon’s port sector is a prerequisite for building back a better Port of Beirut and revitalizing the Lebanese economy, according to a new World Bank note that aims to provide guidance to policymakers on the crucial additional requirements for the rebuilding of the Port of Beirut (PoB).
The note titled “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Lessons from Global Practices“ summarizes global best practices in port governance and border management reforms, and offers a set of guiding principles to help inform port sector reforms in Lebanon and pave the way to rebuild a better PoB. The note also draws on extensive consultations with public and private sector organizations, civil society, academia, and the diplomatic and donor communities.
Following the August 4, 2020, massive PoB explosion that devastated the city, killing at least 200 people, wounding thousands, and displacing around 300,000, a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA), prepared by the World Bank in cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union, estimated damage to the PoB at about US$350 million. Five months after the tragic event, there is still a need to balance the immediate actions needed to secure Lebanon’s vital imports with the opportunity this crisis offers to “build back better” the ports system of Lebanon and stimulate trade and economic growth.
The Port of Beirut is the main gateway for the external trade of Lebanon, but it has failed in its key role as an enabler of economic development in the country by failing to guarantee safe and efficient operations and undertaking the necessary long-term strategic planning. These failures are a direct result of the current mismanagement and lack of good governance of the Port that was established in a legal vacuum and adheres to a port management system that arguably reflects the complex political-economic realities of Lebanon, and which as a result run counter to many recognized good practices.
The note argues that a crucial pre-requisite to the rebuilding of the Port is the establishment of a robust institutional framework for the port sector. This framework will pave the way to rebuild a modern, transparent and efficient port and to restore trust of the Lebanese society and port users into its capacity to strengthen the economic fabric and provide support in overcoming the country’s economic crisis.
“A new national port sector strategy is needed to optimize port infrastructure across Lebanon and to serve best the country and allow improved transit and trade,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “Building back better means revisiting the siting and sizing of the PoB, and rebalancing roles and investments in other ports and other logistics infrastructure using an economic corridor approach to position Lebanon to benefit from future opportunities in the Mashreq region.”
The note also argues that the reconstruction roadmap of the Port of Beirut should have four key building blocks: i) a new governance structure based on the landlord port model; ii) efficient and modern Customs, border agency and trade processes that have an essential role in addressing transparency, predictability and security issues; iii) open and transparent bidding processes for selecting investors, operators or concessionaires; and iv) quality infrastructure that is contingent on a countrywide strategy for the port sector and a revised masterplan for the Port of Beirut.
When effectively implemented in a transparent and participatory manner, these reforms would meet the demands and aspirations of the Lebanese people and all stakeholders towards the efficient functioning of the Port. The World Bank Group stands ready to engage with the port sector stakeholders and a reform-minded government to reform the port sector of Lebanon and rebuild a modern and efficient Port, based on the global best practice presented in this Note.
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