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The Perils of Big COVID Government in Asia

During a large and complex crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, government’s role naturally grows – and so do the risks of unproductive spending and abuses of power. That is why, as Asian economies seek to contain COVID-19 and its economic impacts, they must also contain their own governments.

SEOUL – Asia is home to many exemplars of small but effective government, countries where sound policies and strong institutions underpin economic stability and robust growth. But during the COVID-19 crisis, many are pursuing expansive macroeconomic interventions and implementing measures that infringe on privacy. They are perched on the edge of a slippery slope.

To be sure, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the deepest global recession since World War II, with the International Monetary Fund predicting a 5% economic contraction in 2020 and a slow recovery after that. An “L-shaped” depression is a very real possibility.

Asia is no exception. While the Asian Development Bank expects China to achieve positive GDP growth, it predicts that India’s economy will shrink by 9%. Developing Asia’s GDP will fall by 0.7% – the region’s first contraction since WWII.

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