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Asia-Pacific economy performs well despite SARS

Despite the limited effect of the outbreak of SARS early this year, the Asia-Pacific region`s…

Despite the limited effect of the outbreak of SARS early this year, the Asia-Pacific region`s economy developed well and could even exceed that of last year, a United Nations institution said here on Friday.

The epidemic had caused some direct economic loss between 80 million to 100 million dollars to the region, said Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) of the United Nations.

However, the loss is a very small factor of this region`s growth in this year, noted Kim at a press conference for the release of an ESCAP report on forecast of the region`s development in 2004.

The report said that preliminary indications showed global GDP growth including that of the ESCAP region would either match, or modestly exceed, the performance in 2002.

GDP growth for developing countries in the region was estimated to be around 5.4 percent for this year with China alone reaching an estimated 8.0 percent growth, according to statistics provided by the report.

SARS has adversely affected tourism and related activities, such as air travel, but was confined to the second quarter of 2003, said the report.

Singapore was believed to be the worst-hit country by the disease in the region, losing ground in consumer confidence during the crisis and having a GDP growth as low as 1 percent.

Even in Southeast Asia, where tourism accounted a larger 4-6 percent of GDP, the hit of SARS was only a temporary setback that can be overcome either in the other components of GDP or later in the year by a revival in tourism itself.

The report went further to predict a positive outlook for economic development in 2004 if there`s no unforeseeable negative shocks such as terrorists attack.

However, Kim warned governments around the region of various challenges that would impede the region`s sustainable development.

Therefore, ESCAP asked the governments to address policy issues such as how to maintain high momentum of growth, combine external and domestic sources of growth in a sustainable way and make long-term strategy for development.

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