Economy

South Asia to see slower growth as war in Ukraine impedes recovery: World Bank

The region is projected to grow by 6.6 per cent in 2022 and by 6.3 per cent in 2023, according to the World Bank’s latest report

 
By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 13 April 2022
All countries in south Asia will face challenges ahead though gross domestic product growth continues to be solid during the recovery. Photo: iStock
All countries in south Asia will face challenges ahead though gross domestic product growth continues to be solid during the recovery. Photo: iStock All countries in south Asia will face challenges ahead though gross domestic product growth continues to be solid during the recovery. Photo: iStock

Economic growth in southern Asia will be slower than previously projected due to the impacts of the war in Ukraine and persistent economic challenges, the World Bank has said in its twice-a-year regional update released April 13, 2022.

Reshaping Norms: A New Way Forward projects the region to grow by 6.6 per cent in 2022 and by 6.3 per cent in 2023. The 2022 forecast has been revised downward by 1 percentage point, compared to the January projection.

Countries in south Asia are already grappling with rising commodity prices, supply bottlenecks and vulnerabilities in financial sectors. The war in Ukraine will amplify these challenges, further contributing to inflation, increasing fiscal deficits and deteriorating current account balances, according to a press statement by the World Bank.

Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice president for south Asia, was quoted as saying:

South Asia has faced multiple shocks in the past two years, including the scarring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. High oil and food prices caused by the war in Ukraine will have a strong negative impact on peoples’ real incomes.

“Given these challenges, governments need to carefully plan monetary and fiscal policies to counter external shocks and protect the vulnerable, while laying the foundation for green, resilient and inclusive growth,” he added.

All countries in the region will face challenges ahead though gross domestic product (GDP) growth continues to be solid during the recovery.

In India, household consumption will be constrained by the incomplete recovery of the labour market and inflationary pressures. The Maldives faces vulnerabilities due to its large imports of fossil fuels as share of GDP and a reduction in tourists from Russia and Ukraine.

In Sri Lanka, the economic outlook is highly uncertain due to fiscal and external imbalances. In Afghanistan, higher food prices will exacerbate food insecurity.

One of Pakistan’s challenges in the current environment is its energy subsidies, which are the largest in the region. Bangladesh will face weaker demand from Europe for its exports. On a positive note, exports of services from the region are on the rise.

The war and its impact on fuel prices can provide the region with much-needed impetus to reduce reliance on fuel imports and transition to a green, resilient and inclusive growth trajectory.

The report recommends that countries steer away from inefficient fuel subsidies that tend to benefit wealthier households and deplete public resources. South Asian countries should also move towards a greener economy by gradually introducing taxation that puts tariffs on products which cause environmental damage.

“The introduction of green taxation can have multiple quantifiable benefits for South Asia, including improved energy security, environmental gains and increased fiscal revenues,” Hans Timmer, World Bank chief economist for south Asia, said.

“These revenues could be utilised for adaptation against climate-related disasters and to strengthen social safety net systems,” he added.

Another challenge the region faces is the disproportionate economic impact the pandemic has had on women. The report includes in-depth analysis of gender disparities in the region and their link with deeply rooted social norms and recommends policies that will support women’s access to economic opportunities, tackle discriminatory norms and improve gender outcomes for inclusive growth.

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