The Asia-Pacific region was the first to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic; it put a strain on its people and economies, and policymaking became exceptionally difficult. This departmental paper contains the assessment of the key challenges facing Asia at this critical juncture and policy advice to the region both to address the current challenges and to build the foundations for a more sustainable and inclusive future. The paper focuses on (1) adjusting to the COVID-19 shock, (2) using unconventional policies when policy space is limited, (3) dealing with debt, and (4) helping the vulnerable and greening the recovery. The paper first presents the different ways countries are adjusting to the COVID-19 shock.
Ljubica Dordevic, Caio Ferreira, Moses Kitonga, and Katharine Seal
The paper employs two complementary strategies. First, it is pursues textual analysis (text mining) of the assessment reports to identify successes and challenges the authorities are facing. Second, it analyzes the grades in the Basel Core Principles assessments, including their evolution and association with bank fragility.
Thilo Kroeger, Anh Thi Ngoc Nguyen, Yuanyan Sophia Zhang, Pham Dinh Thuy, Nguyen Huy Minh, and Duong Danh Tuan
The paper uses firm-level data to assess the financial health of the Vietnamese non-financial corporate sector on the eve of pandemic. Our analysis finds that smaller domestic firms were particularly vulnerable even by regional comparison. A sensitivity analysis suggests that the COVID-19 shock will have a substantial impact on firms’ profitability, liquidity and even solvency, particularly in the hardest hit sectors that are dominated by SMEs and account for a sizeable employment share, but large firms are not immune to the crisis. Risks of default can propagate more broadly through upstream and downstream linkages to industries not directly impacted, with stresses potentially translating into an increase in corporate bankruptcies and bank fragility. Policy measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the crisis have helped alleviate liquidity pressures, but the nature of policy support may have to pivot to support the recovery.
Mr. Federico J Diez, Mr. Romain A Duval, Jiayue Fan, José Garrido, Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Chiara Maggi, and Mr. Nicola Pierri
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased insolvency risks, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are vastly overrepresented in hard-hit sectors. Without government intervention, even firms that are viable a priori could end up being liquidated—particularly in sectors characterized by labor-intensive technologies, threatening both macroeconomic and social stability. This staff discussion note assesses the impact of the pandemic on SME insolvency risks and policy options to address them. It quantifies the impact of weaker aggregate demand, changes in sectoral consumption patterns, and lockdowns on firm balance sheets and estimates the impact of a range of policy options, for a large sample of SMEs in (mostly) advanced economies.