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.


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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.

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Africa’s Development Dynamics

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By Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre and Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary-General on Development


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


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The launch this week in Addis Ababa of the new flagship joint report Africa’s Development Dynamics 2018 alongside the African Union Commission reflects a fundamental commitment to an ongoing conversation on Africa, with Africa and for Africa. Thus, we did more than unveil a report on paper about the challenges of growth, jobs and inequalities. What we are also doing is strengthening an inclusive platform for policy dialogue on how best to turn Africa’s own vision and strategy for its development as captured in the African Union’s ambitious Agenda 2063 into reality and practice. And it is a platform in which we envision engaging with and involving more and more diverse actors to tap their expertise and add their perspectives to drafting future editions of our joint analysis.

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Services, informality and productivity in Africa

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By Tabea Lakemann, Research Fellow, GIGA Institute of African Affairs and University of Göttingen, and Jann Lay, Acting Director, GIGA Institute of African Affairs, and Head of GIGA Research Programme Growth and Development


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa


Services, informality and productivity in AfricaEconomic development and a sustained, broad-based increase in living standards on the African1 continent are critically connected to the capacity of African economies to create decent jobs at a rate that keeps up with the rapid growth of the workforce. This, in turn, depends on the ability of African governments to develop innovative, tailor-made strategies towards private sector development taking full advantage of countries’ comparative advantages. Private sector development strategies require governments to recognise the significance of informality and to look beyond industrialisation — to the service sector — for private sector growth and job creation.

The potential of informal firms

On average, the informal economy is estimated to make up almost 40% of GPD in Africa.2 Informal firms are typically much smaller than formal ones, but even when controlling for size, they are on average less productive, less likely to access external finance and have less educated managers.3 At the same time, heterogeneity between informal firms is considerable. Some firms exhibit very high marginal returns to capital, and between 28% and 58% of informal entrepreneurs in West Africa are identified as “constrained gazelles” with low capital stocks, but some unrealised growth potential.4 Many informal firms thus have the likely potential to provide an improved livelihood to their self-employed owners and family members engaged in the business.
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Youth Employment and Inclusive Growth: Part of the same coin in Cambodia

By Emmanuel Asomba, Development Policy Researcher, and Ji-Yeun Rim, Youth Inclusion Project Co-ordinator, OECD Development Centre

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Courtesy ©UNV Cambodia May 31, 2016

Some countries in the South Asia and Pacific region are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of working-age people. This will create some opportunities as it will contribute to reducing the dependency ratio and increasing the possibilities for social cohesion policies. But if these people fail to find decent jobs, then per capita income may slow down. With less income, people face lower living standards and difficulties accumulating capital and assets. For young people, these changes potentially bring significant challenges. Take, for example, youth in Cambodia.

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Green Industrialisation and Entrepreneurship in Africa

By Milan Brahmbhatt, Senior Fellow, New Climate Economy (NCE) and World Resources Institute1


Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details


Solar salesman in Gulu Uganda Photo credit James Anderson
Solar salesman in Gulu, Uganda. Photo credit: James Anderson

Policy makers across Africa have embraced industrialisation and economic transformation as keys to accelerate inclusive growth. They also increasingly see the need for economic transformation to deliver green growth – growth that does not endanger Africa’s natural environment in ways that reduce the welfare of present and future generations. Economic transformation and green growth depend on doing new things: making risky investments in new, unfamiliar sectors or products or adopting new, unfamiliar methods, processes, technologies, inputs or business models. All this depends crucially on the activity of entrepreneurs, who drive change through their innovation and risk-taking. Fostering entrepreneurship, including green entrepreneurship, is thus a key policy aim for African countries.

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Habitat III decisions crucial for the future of Africa’s cities

By Greg Foster, Area Vice-President, Habitat for Humanity, Europe, Middle East and Africa

habitat-3Africa will have some of the fastest growing cities in the world over the next 50 years. Unless something is done, and done soon, millions more will flood into unplanned cities and live in already overcrowded informal settlements and slums. It would appear as if the United Nation’s Habitat III conference, which happens every 20 years, and New Urban Agenda couldn’t come at a better time.

Habitat III’s goals sound simple — develop well-planned and sustainable cities, eradicate poverty and reach full employment, and respect human rights. Being able to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world, the meeting will seek political commitment to promote and realise sustainable urban development. This could be a watershed moment for Africa’s cities. But critical challenges stand in the way of making Africa’s cities economic powerhouses, centres for exchanging ideas, and places that meld cultures and peoples. Three actions are needed. Continue reading

Myanmar can flourish by sowing seeds of agricultural prosperity

By Deirdre May Culley and Martha Baxter, policy analysts at the OECD Development Centre

MyanmarDEVmattersOn 30 March, Htin Kyaw, a long-time adviser and ally of Aung San Suu Kyi – whose National League for Democracy party achieved a historic victory in recent electionsbecame the first elected civilian to hold office in Myanmar since the army took over in 1962.

The NLD won the democratic battle and enjoys unparalleled political capital and legitimacy. It must now deliver on exceedingly high expectations, build a cohesive multi-ethnic state and improve citizens’ lives. Economic progress will be indispensable if the country is to overcome years of ethnic armed conflict and move towards a common future. So what can the new government do?

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