We are kickstarting 2022 with short conversations with some of our regular contributors about their outlook for the new year.
Here, we speak with Bart W Édes, Professor of Practice at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development and author of Learning From Tomorrow: Using Strategic Foresight to Prepare for the Next Big Disruption, about the outlook for Asia in 2022.
Unravel: As we enter 2022, what must be priority areas for governments in developing countries in Asia?
Bart W Édes: Without a doubt, vaccinating their populations against COVID-19 and implementing other measures to contain the spread of the virus, like contact tracing, rapid testing and targeted quarantines. This will allow a responsible lifting of restrictions on mobility and commerce, boosting the economy and job creation, and rejuvenating hard-hit sectors like tourism.
Unravel: COVID-19 has left deep scars on Asian economies. Do you expect Asian economies and societies to bounce back in 2022?
Mr Édes: The quick spread of Omicron has clouded Asia’s economic fortunes for 2022. The possible emergence of other variants could further delay a sustained recovery. That said, I am cautiously optimistic that the region’s economies will be in a better place in the last quarter of 2022 than today. If China manages some of its major domestic challenges well this coming year, that will bode well for the rest of the region, which depends heavily on steady growth in Asia’s largest economy.
Unravel: What are some things in Asia’s favour as we look to the new year?
Mr Édes: Several countries have gotten very good at tackling outbreaks and adjusting policies quickly in response to new COVID-19 related challenges. Vaccination rates continue to rise. There is a strong desire among policymakers to find ways to boost trade and connectivity, as evidenced by the RCEP and the CPTPP. Further, Asian societies have continuously proven to be industrious and resilient. For example, watch how they rebound from frequently occurring natural disasters.
Unravel: Are you optimistic about Asia’s long-term prospects? Please explain why.
Mr Édes: I am very optimistic. In the 10 years leading up to, and including, 2019, the five largest developing economies of ASEAN grew at an average rate of more than 5% a year. There is a rapid take-up of new technologies and digital commerce has exploded. The main global action on international trade is taking place in Asia and the Pacific. Look at the increasing influence of Asia in entertainment, gaming and culture. All signs point to the region accounting for a larger and larger share of the global economy over the next two decades.