ADB trims Asia growth forecasts over new variant
Published: Dec 14, 2021 05:58 PM
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Photo: VCG

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Photo: VCG

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned Tuesday that the highly mutated Omicron coronavirus variant could have a "substantial" economic impact, as it trimmed its 2021 and 2022 growth forecasts for developing Asia.

Despite a sharp drop in infections and increased vaccination across the region stretching from the Cook Islands to Kazakhstan, the global surge in COVID-19 cases suggested "the pandemic will take time to play out," it said.

The Philippines-based lender forecast growth of 7 percent in 2021 - compared with its previous prediction in September of 7.1 percent - and 5.3 percent in 2022, down from its earlier forecast of 5.4 percent.

While the region was expected to sustain a "strong rebound" and keep inflation at manageable levels, the emergence of Omicron had brought "additional uncertainty," the ADB said.

"Recent developments in Europe show that extensive virus outbreaks can occur even in highly vaccinated countries and force governments to retighten mobility restrictions," it said.

Vaccination rates have increased across developing Asia in recent months, with nearly half of the population fully protected against COVID-19 at the end of November, compared with less than a third at the end of August, the lender said.

That has enabled many economies to start reopening, boosting manufacturing activity and trade in the region. 

But coverage remained uneven - 20 economies still have less than 40 percent of their populations fully vaccinated, "leaving them susceptible to renewed outbreaks."