From crisis to opportunity in China: stepping up digitalisation amid COVID-19

By Margit Molnar, Head of China Desk, OECD Economics Department and Kensuke Tanaka, Head of Asia Desk, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


digitalisationDigitalisation as a way to lift growth potential

COVID-19, or the new Great Depression, is likely to have a lasting impact on economies and societies worldwide. Pandemics are shown to be followed by sustained periods with depressed investment opportunities, and/or heightened desires to save (Jorda et al., 2020), thereby reducing potential growth. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19, many governments, in addition to emergency measures to save lives and keep firms afloat, have also adopted investment stimuli. China is among those countries where the composition of stimulus is tilted towards public investment. While continuing to strike a delicate balance between keeping the pandemic under control and resuming activities, it is crucial to accelerate processes that will counter the fall in growth potential. China’s growth potential is set to decrease as the country catches up with more advanced economies and its rapid ageing also weighs on it. However, China can still reap the “reform dividend” with measures that also boost growth in the long term.

Digitalisation is a promising candidate to lift China’s long-term growth potential. Digital technologies are shown to boost productivity (Gal et al., 2019), which is the key to sustainable growth. At the current juncture, introducing digital technologies can also help jumpstart the economy as it creates new jobs and meets new demand (OECD, 2018). Indeed, in the first quarter of the year, it was the IT and software sector growing at over 13% and the financial sector at over 6% (partly thanks to surging online payments), that held up services growth. Continue reading

The economic implications of lockdown in Emerging Asia

By Kensuke Tanaka, Head of Asia Desk, OECD Development Centre and Mario Pezzini, Director, OECD Development Centre and Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development  


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


KL-shutterstock_1694976904
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Health workers prepare to conduct a COVID-19 test for people at Flat Selangor Mansion, Masjid India. Photo: Shutterstock

First detected in China, COVID-19 has spread rapidly to other countries, infecting more than 2 million people worldwide and killing more than 127,000 to date (14 April).  From mid-March, Southeast Asian countries started to see their number of cases climb (Figures 1 and 2). As of 14 April, India confirmed over 11,000 cases, though the sharp increase can partly be attributed to more testing. Malaysia and Indonesia each surpassed the bar of 4,800 confirmed cases, while the Philippines has counted over 5,200 as of the same date. The rapid evolution of the disease has prompted authorities to announce various measures including putting entire cities and countries into lockdown to stop the virus. As early as January in China and March elsewhere, many Emerging Asian countries have imposed local or even nationwide lockdown and curfew measures (Table 1), with varying durations, geographical coverage, and scope. Lockdown measures contribute to containing the spread of the virus, but they also prevent economic activities that would otherwise take place. As the debate in countries turns to when and how to end a lockdown and restart the economy, the health and economic implications of lockdown measures need to be considered carefully.

Continue reading

Three trade challenges for LDCs to converge and eradicate poverty

By Anabel González, Nonresident Senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics; Former Costa Rica Minister of Trade, World Bank Senior Director for Trade & Competitiveness, and World Trade Organization Director for Agriculture


This blog is part of a special series marking the 3 July 2019 launch in Geneva of the joint OECD/WTO publication Aid for Trade at a Glance 


AFT coverBangladesh is preparing to graduate from the category of least developed countries (LDCs). Robust multi-year economic growth of more than 6-7% has helped this South Asian nation make remarkable progress in reducing extreme poverty from 44.2% in 1991 to 13.9% in 2017. In parallel, life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production have increased significantly. Rapid growth enabled Bangladesh to reach the lower middle-income country status in 2015; it now aspires to become an upper middle-income country by its 50th anniversary in 2021. Trade has been at the heart of this success story (see Figure 1). Exports of textiles and garments are driving integration into the global economy, with new products becoming part of the country’s export basket. Will Bangladesh be able to continue to rely on trade for increased growth? Will conditions remain for other LDCs to follow?

Continue reading

Look East instead of West for the future global middle class

By Kristofer Hamel, Chief Operating Officer, and Baldwin Tong, Research Analyst, World Data Lab

India-middle-class-shopping
South City Mall in Kolkata, India

Poverty is declining worldwide. Yet, reducing poverty is not equivalent to a rising middle class. A large share of the world’s population earns between USD 2 and USD 11 a day (in 2011 purchasing power parity). Only once people start earning more than USD 11 do they tend to have enough extra spending power to make purchases that go beyond basic needs and therefore enter the global middle class. First-time middle-class purchases include personal transportation (motorcycles), housing (first-time renting or low-end purchases), finance (first savings account or loan) and education (tertiary).

Over the next decade, middle-class spending power will shift from west to east due to the huge growth in the middle-class segments (USD 11-USD 110 per day) of India and China. The middle classes of these two countries will represent over 83% of their respective country’s spending power, meaning that businesses should consider their tastes and preferences. Combined, the world’s two most populous countries are expected to represent over 43.3% of the global middle class by 2030.
Continue reading

Innovation Driving the City

By Ms. Theresa Mathawaphan and Ms. Yaowarat Kekina, National Innovation Agency (Public Organisation), Thailand


Check out the 28 March 2019 EMnet meeting on
“Global Challenges for Business in Emerging Markets”
with a special focus on Smart Cities in Asia


Bangkok-CyberTech-District-Development
Bangkok CyberTech District Development

Innovation and technology currently play an increasing role in developing the urban city by tackling multiple challenges. Many cities in the ASEAN region have set-up urban development strategies by creating an innovation ecosystem to elevate the area’s economy and investment, reaching a global level. This makes the “innovation city” concept more recognised and used as a new way of driving the development of cities.

Proof of this is the Innovation Cities Index 2018. This report evaluates the city innovation ecosystem capability of 500 cities worldwide, reflecting the vision that a city can grow and be sustainably driven when citizens and corporations are capable of generating innovation. This index measures three main aspects, namely cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets, and has a total of 162 indexes. Continue reading

Raising capital for intermediary cities

By Jeremy Gorelick, Senior Infrastructure Finance Advisor, USAID’s* WASH-FIN (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – Finance) Programme, and Joel Moktar, Project Leader, Open Capital Advisors


This blog is part of an ongoing series exploring the intersection between intermediary cities in developing countries and sustainable development


shutterstock_785203567

Intermediary cities are the fastest growing cities in the developing world. Often referred to as secondary or second-tier cities, intermediary cities typically have a population of between 50,000 and one million people. They play a fundamental role in connecting both rural and urban areas to basic facilities and services.[1] Driven by population growth and rural-urban migration, intermediary cities worldwide are projected to grow at almost twice the rate of megacities (those with more than 10 million inhabitants) between now and 2030.[2] Of these, the fastest growing cities are in Africa and Asia.[3]

Continue reading

The institutional key to step-up disaster risk management in Thailand

By Andrea Colombo, Jr. Policy Analyst, and Chloé Stutzmann, Consultant, OECD Development Centre

thailand-water
Thailand, Nonthaburi flood, 2011.
Photo: Suwan Wanawattanawong / Shutterstock.com

The increasing exposure of people to disaster worldwide was a key issue during last week’s World Water Forum in Brasilia. By 2050, almost 2 billion people in the world will be at risk of floods. At the same time, between 5 and 6 billion people might live in areas that will be water-scarce.

Thailand is no exception to this global trend. The 2011 floods affected 16 million people and claimed over 1 000 lives. The economic damage accounted for over USD 9 billion in the city of Bangkok alone (OECD, 2015). In 2016, drought was declared in 14 provinces, and water rationing was imposed as major dams dropped to their lowest levels since 1994. Such flooding and drought moreover negatively affect agricultural production, especially in Thailand’s rural provinces in the North, the Northeast and the South regions, where agriculture’s share in GDP exceeded 20% in 2015, compared to the 9% national average.
Continue reading