Can this time be different? Challenges and opportunities for Asia-Pacific economies in the aftermath of COVID-19

Asia and the Pacific is facing its worst economic contraction at least since the 1970s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequent economic weakness is likely to set back the region’s socio-economic progress and is predicted to push a significant number of people into unemployment and poverty while increasing inequality. Although slowdown in economic activities has provided some breathing space to the environment, such a benefit could turn out to be temporary. The region faces a difficult path to recovery, due to deepened existing vulnerabilities that include weak economic conditions and other exogenous shocks. These challenging times call for unprecedented relief and stimulus policies and offer an opportunity for countries to align their socio-economic policies with the 2030 Agenda to ensure a more inclusive, greener and more resilient future. Such policies include increasing investments in Sustainable Development Goals and strengthening governance to improve investment efficiency. Climate resilience should be built into investment projects. Regulatory changes could catalyze such efforts to “build forward better”. Partnership with local, national and international stakeholders is critical for Governments to support this development transition.