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April 4, 2021

ADB chief economist says regional economy will grow in current year

Karachi

April 4, 2021

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the regional GDP contracted by 0.2 per cent in 2020 with East Asia faring much better. After a sharp contraction last year, growth in South Asia will rebound in 2021 but the recovery will be uneven.

Yasuyuki Sawada, the chief economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said this on Saturday as he delivered the opening address on the second day of the 1st International Conference on Economics and Sustainable Development held by the Institute of Business Administration’s (IBA) School of Economics and Social Sciences in collaboration with the Centre for Business and Economic Research.

Sawada spoke about the outbreak of Covid-19 and how it had destabilised the economies and widened existing social inequalities, impacting lives and livelihoods of millions in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Later, a panel discussion titled ‘Sustainable Development: Inequality and Inclusive Growth’ took place amongst UNDP Pakistan Resident Representative Knut Ostby, IBA Executive Director Dr S Akbar Zaidi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar and SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood.

“As one of the first countries to pledge its commitment to the 2030 Agenda on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], Pakistan understands the simple truth that equality is the cornerstone of sustainable development,” Ostby said, adding that the Asia-Pacific region had witnessed the steepest rise globally in human development but at the same time, the region continued to grapple with widespread and multidimensional poverty.

Dr Zaidi remarked that poverty was much easier to address compared to inequality. “All data prior to Covid-19 shows that poverty rate fell remarkably in South Asia, however, what it does not show is that inequality rate also increased a great deal. So whenever there has been economic growth, rather than development, there has been a rise in inequality.”

Dr Masood was of the view that inclusive growth was mainly about reducing poverty. “However, growth should also be focused on women, youth and rural populations so that they could join the race and benefit from the growth,” he said.

Talking about the Ehsaas Programme, Dr Sania remarked that the programme was linked with the theory of change, and it was not a mere rebranding of the Benazir Income Support Program. She mentioned that a ministry was created to consolidate all the federal entities, covering the digital infrastructure which helped cash roll-out during the pandemic.

The second day of the conference also featured two technical parallel sessions with PhD scholars and leading researchers on a variety of topics ranging from labour markets, tourism, and socio-economic impact of Covid-19 to sustainable energy, poverty and youth development.

Earlier on the first day of the conference, a panel discussion titled ‘Growth and Economic Stability: Challenges and Prospects’ featured former federal minister Dr Miftah Ismail, former Planning Commission deputy chairman Dr Nadeem-ul-Haque and others. The talk was moderated by Dr Asma Hyder, the dean of the School of Economics and Social Sciences, IBA, and IBA Economics Department Chairperson Dr Adnan Haider.

Dr Miftah Ismail stated that economic growth and stability was not a priority for the Pakistani nation and hence, the investment sector was overlooked, and the financial environment was not conducive for savings.