News of the coronavirus broke in late 2019 as pneumonia of unknown cause. Declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11 March 2020, there are more than 1.8 million people who had been infected and over 110,000 deaths resulting from the virus.
WHO and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a joint press conference to cover the economic impacts of the pandemic, highlighting the importance of debt relief to avoid economic collapse and social welfare programs to ensure people have essentials.
Governments are doing their best to protect their people, provide debt relief for businesses to enable economic survival. We take a look at how some of the countries in Asia are handling the crisis.
Singapore imposed circuit breaker measures on 7 April 2020 and these are expected to last one month till 4 May 2020. The Resilience and Solidarity Budgets were introduced to complement Budget 2020 to address the rapidly evolving Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on Singapore’s economy and society.
Close to S$55 billion will be dedicated to help individuals with household expenses and support firms with cash flow and retain workers. More long-term help included S$6 billion set aside to cushion the impact of a future goods and services tax (GST) increase, and S$8.3 billion to be spent on growing and transforming the economy over three years.
Malaysia announced a lockdown on 18 March 2020 which was further extended for two weeks to 28 April 2020. So far, Malaysia has registered the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.
RM250 billion (S$83.6 billion) on top of an earlier RM20 billion (S$6.6 billion) were channelled towards supporting people and businesses grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest Care Package includes RM128 billion for welfare programmes and RM100 billion to support businesses including small and medium enterprises and RM1 billion will be allocated to the purchase of equipment and services such as specialist services from private sector.
As the most populous country in Southeast Asia, cases of the coronavirus was first reported on 2 March 2020. The Indonesia capital, Jakarta was put under a state of emergency on 20 March with closure of schools, tourist destinations and workplaces as well as limits on religious events and cultural activities. This was extended to run till 19 April 2020. Six other provinces including Yogyakarta, West Java, East Java, Banten, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan have also declared a state of emergency. While the traditional Ramadan migration, known as the “mudik” is still expected to take place, free travel usually offered by the government institutions or private sectors will not be allowed.
The government will allocate IDR405.1 trillion (S$36.3 billion) to fight the pandemic and the corporate income tax rate will be lowered from 25 percent to 22 percent this year. The allocation includes IDR75 trillion for healthcare sector, IDR110 trillion for social protection, IDR70.1 trillion as tax and incentives for businesses and IDR150 trillion for economic recovery program, including credit restructuring, guarantee and financing of businesses.
Thailand invoked an emergency decree on 26 March 2020 to control the coronavirus pandemic. Thailand has announced an indefinite, nationwide curfew and residents will not be allowed to leave their premises between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. The country also extended a ban on all passenger flights from landing in the country for 12 more days until the end of April 18. The Thai New Year, Songkran will also be postponed and people are urged not to celebrate with the traditional water-splashing.
Thailand’s Cabinet has approved a THB1.9 trillion (S$82.5 billion) package of economic measures to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. This followed a THB407 billion (S$17.6 billion) stimulus package earlier announced on 10 March.
One of the strictest in Asia, a third of the country, consisting of the main island of Luzon, home to capital Manila, was placed under lockdown since 16 March and is extended until 30 April.
A stimulus package of PHP200 billion(S$5.69 billion) has been approved and includes cash aid to 18 million low-income families. It is expected that the government may shift more funds from the PHP 4.1 trillion budget towards the pandemic relief. The measures include a PHP27 billion economic package for affected workers and establishments, farmers and fisherfolks as well as micro, small and medium enterprises, among others.
Hong Kong was one of the earliest to take action and had closed schools since the Chinese New Year holiday on 3 February. Inbound travellers are subjected to health quarantine checks from 25 March. All non-residents, with the exception of people from Macau, Taiwan and the mainland who have not been overseas for the past 14 days will be barred entry. The government has gradually stepped up measures with a new anti-epidemic regulation coming into effect from 10 April to 23 April 2020 to reduce gatherings.
The early adoption of these measures were said to have further dented its economy, which was already reeling from the impact of earlier protests. A second round of HK$137.5 billion on top of an earlier HKD$30 billion Anti-epidemic Fund was set aside to help businesses stay afloat, retain the livelihoods of its people and facilitate the economy to recover. A HKD$120 billion budget was also delved out of which HKD$71 billion was disbursed to benefit 7 million people in the form of cash payout.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally declared a one-month state of emergency on 7 April 2020 covering seven prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka which will last till at least 6 May 2020. However, unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, movement is not restricted and there will be no penalties. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has also been postponed.
The Japan’s government approved an emergency economic stimulus package worth JPY108.2 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) to soften the economic blow. This includes central and local government spending of around JPY27 trillion and government financing programs amounting to JPY12.5 trillion. The extra budget totalled JPY16.8 trillion. Funding comes from JPY14.5 trillion in debt-covering bonds and JPY2.3 trillion in construction bonds. Spending includes JPY4 trillion in cash handouts for households and JPY2.3 trillion to support small and mid-size firms. This was after Japan unveiled a second package of measures, totalling JPY430.8 billion (S$5.7 billion) in spending to cope with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
As of 24 March 2020, India had placed its 1.3 billion people in a three-week lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The finance minister announced a INR23 billion relief package for the poor, farmers, women and the disabled. The government outlined plans for medical insurance worth INR5 million for every front-line health worker, from doctors, nurses and paramedics to those involved in sanitary services.
However, the shutdown has left millions of people without work, threatening a decline in the economic growth. The Prime Minister has asked his cabinet to come up with plans to open up some crucial industries as the livelihoods of millions of people were at stake. The proposal was for small and medium industries in areas where there are no outbreak to be allowed to start operations.