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Asia Minute: IMF says vaccines key to regional economic recovery

South Korea Financial Markets stock market economy asia pacific
Lee Jin-man/AP
Currency traders watch computer monitors near the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

As COVID-19 vaccinations increase around the world, a gap is widening. It’s a split between advanced economies and developing countries — and the difference is especially pronounced in Asia.

The concept from the International Monetary Fund is simple.

Countries with a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines will grow faster than those that come up short.

As the IMF looks ahead with its forecasts for the Asia Pacific region, it’s finding that easier access to vaccines can be a predictor of better economic health.

On Tuesday, the group downgraded expectations for the region — while still forecasting growth of 6.5% this year.

That’s down from 7.6% in its spring forecast, but it would make the Asia Pacific the fastest-growing part of the world.

The sharpest country downgrades were among those with the least vaccinated populations.

While slightly boosting its outlook for next year to nearly 5% for regional growth, IMF economists say recovery will “likely remain uneven across countries and sectors.”

Risks range from inflation to supply chain issues — as well as the ability to tamp down any flare-up of the pandemic or new variants.

The IMF statement also notes, “No country can recover fully until all countries have broad access to vaccines. The pandemic is not over anywhere until it is over everywhere.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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