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People wearing masks ride a mini truck in Prayagraj, India. People wearing masks ride a mini truck in Prayagraj, India, May 23, 2020 (AP photo by Rajesh Kumar Singh).

COVID-19 Will Leave South Asia Poorer, Weaker and Less Democratic

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, at least in its first wave, is not expected to peak in South Asia until July. But countries in the region, which have yet to witness a significant outbreak along the lines of China, the United States or the hardest-hit parts of Europe, are already loosening their lockdowns. The pandemic is spreading unevenly across the world for reasons that are not always entirely clear, so it is difficult to predict the public health impact of easing lockdowns. But what is clear is that the pandemic will leave South Asia poorer, less democratic and more illiberal. And China could see net strategic gains from that fallout.

South Asian economies had seen some of the world’s fastest growth in recent years, but there are also high concentrations of extreme poverty in the region. Poor or near-poor residents of India and Pakistan were already suffering from a series of regressive economic policies, so for them, the pandemic is the second of a one-two punch. Weak social safety nets throughout South Asia will be inadequate to cushion COVID-19’s impact. ...

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