Asian Economies Through the Pandemic

HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Brief No. 63


David Skilling

There is substantial variation in COVID outcomes and policy approaches around the world. In general, Asian economies have performed well in terms of limiting COVID cases and deaths, while also generating relatively strong economic outcomes, on the back of distinctively tough COVID restriction measures. There is also variation across Asia on these outcomes, with some countries doing poorly relative to the more developed Asian economies. There are many reasons for this variation in performance. But a key reason is the quality of political and social institutions across countries, from state capability to social trust and corruption. This can also explain the variation in Asian performance, both compared to countries in other regions as well as across Asia. However, COVID will be with us for a long time. This means that Asia’s performance in COVID outcomes relative to other regions may change. Indeed, there have been big shifts in performance across countries over the course of the pandemic – with some counties better during some phases of managing COVID than others. In Asia, countries that have implemented tough restrictions may find these difficult to relax. National strengths and weaknesses around the world have been exposed by COVID. This will not be the last pandemic, and nor will it be the last major external shock that countries face. Investing to strengthen state capability as well as social and political institutions is important for strengthening future performance.

About the author

David Skilling is the Founding Director of Landfall Strategy Group, an economic and policy advisory firm that works with governments, firms and financial institutions in Australasia, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. David has previously worked in various roles in the New Zealand Government, founded an independent economic think tank in New Zealand, and was with the McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey & Co in Singapore. 

David holds a PhD in Public Policy and a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University, as well as a Master of Commerce degree in Economics from the University of Auckland. David was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008.


Further reading

David Skilling investigates why many Asian economies have performed well through COVID in terms of GDP growth, exceeding the performance of economies in other parts of the world in the HKUST Thought Leadership Brief #65 "Recovery on the Horizon? An Analysis of the Performance of External Sectors in Asia Through COVID"

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