Hamidi, Abdul Basir
Two years after the spread of the coronavirus disease, countries around the world gradually began to recover, but the pandemic somehow collapsed the economy of many countries, especially in Asia and Africa. The injected restrictions to fight surging infections caused by the Delta variant already have broken the backbone of much country’s economy. Asian and African countries are among the countries that have been harshly hit by the pandemic and the economic situation remains fragile. Many businesses continue to experience huge income losses. Among businesses that have been roughly affected by COVID-19 in Asia and some countries in Africa are tourism, transport, personal services, and hospitality/catering. It is estimated that the number of people in extreme poverty has increased especially in Southeast Asia due to the severe decline in economic activity, and economic challenges are still not expected to recover anymore soon. The Asian Development Bank released data that emphasize the rise of poverty in Southeast Asia, and it estimates that the number of impoverished people rose by 5.4 million in Southeast Asia in 2020 due to the steep decline in economic activity (Elbehri et al., 2022). In 2021 although the number of poverty decreased than 2020; the decline is not as much as expected by economists. It is important to note that there are many ways to combat fragile economic situations on all levels – from statewide solutions to everyday tips that governments can use to improve and recover the economy.
How can countries recover the economy, especially creative industries?
Tourism is one of the economic cornerstone sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many countries opened the doors to touristic destinations, the number of visitors is not as before the – pandemic. One of the ways that countries can promote the tourism industry is to help and support micro, small, and medium enterprises, especially those that rely on a creative economy. Many tourists during their traveling have the interest to purchase traditional and creative goods, but COVID-19 has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of cultural and creative workers, and they are not able to stand on their own feet and start their businesses. Having strengthened creative goods and supporting the creative workers to have the opportunity to offer their goods for the domestic and international markets will attract many tourists; in the meantime boost the economy of that country. According to a report from UNESCO, the cultural and creative workers lost their jobs with a total of 10 million worldwide in 2020 (UNESCO, 2022). There is now a need for targeted investment strategies by the governments particularly for the support of creative professionals.
For global economic recovery, creative workers need to be educated and have access to digital skills. The pandemic also accelerated digitization demand in the arts and culture sector to meet the massive requirements for cultural and creative goods and services, such as music, performing arts, film, and virtual museums. The creative economy is one of the huge contributors to national income, and it has economic and social value. According to the data, Thailand and Singapore’s creative sectors contribute more than 9 percent of the country's GDP (Kenan Institute Asia, 2009); Indonesia’s creative sector generates 7 percent of Indonesia’s economic activity (Utami, & Lantu, 2014), and there are many other Asian and African countries whose countries' GDP is highly dependent on the creative industry. Lack of digital knowledge in the era of Covid-19 has caused the degradation of income, mainly in sectors such as filmmaking, dance, theatre, music, photography, and fashion design. If the creative workers have digital skills, they will be able to continue to produce creative works. The governments can pave the ground for creative workers with access to digital skills training to help them innovate and find new ways to add economic value and attract customers. Moreover, the governments, particularly in Asia and Africa should facilitate the opportunity for the creative sectors to at least come together in a year and share ideas for career progression and growth in each country's market.
The other sector that is on its knees due the Covid-19 is the hospitality industry in Asia and Africa. The virus forced the hospitality industry owners to close their restaurants and hotel’s doors, and some of them -decreased the number of staff due to the loss of customers. The impacts are still continuing, and the these industries are still experiencing limited or no return. For tackling the challenge and recovering the hospitality industry, the governments should follow or create a policy that supports the investors who have been impacted. One of the measures to restore and support this sector is that the governments should provide subsidies and reduce taxes. Take the example of China which used this model as a way to help the recovery of the hospitality sector. China implemented numerous practices mainly tax reduction and financial incentives (Tian, 2021). Other countries such as Vietnam have also proposed several relief policies to support their struggling tourism and hospitality sectors. This comprehensive strategy may help the annihilation of the existing challenges that hospitality industry owners have faced.
Moving forward; actions that should be put into practice The existing challenges that lay before the economy of the Asian and African countries cannot be removed without countries' collaboration. We are living in an interconnected and globalized world, and I do believe challenges cannot be solved unilaterally. As John Mearsheimer, an American political scientist, says that countries were isolated and not bonded with each other in the past decades, but now all nations are in a single ship; so a small loss will be a loss for all. This means leaders have to give their hands together for overcoming challenges and barriers. Moreover, there should be an “extraordinary move” by the Asian and African countries that looks forward to a coherent economic recovery process that leaves no one behind, and for a recovery that not only fixes the economic challenges but it should also complements the policy that targets the medium-term and the long-term cooperation between these countries. Enhancing cooperation, not only in dealing with pandemic problems, but also in terms of developing the creative economy. Some countries, such as Indonesia, have taken strict measures for economic recovery and supporting the creative industry. As we all know, Indonesia had the World Conference on the Creative Economy (WCCE) in Bali, where delegates from the public, the private sector, and NGOs came together. WCCE was the host of many creative economy stakeholders from many countries who represented various regions in this world, and it was a landmark for discussing issues and challenges in the -creative economy. Such steps help for the recovery of the economic status quo, in the meantime, will promote the partnership between countries and hope to have other strong steps toward the growth of the great powerhouses (creative economy) of our times.
Elbehri, A., Temel, T., Burcu Ceylan, F., Mittal, S., Kularatne, D., & Dawe, D. (2022). COVID-19 pandemic impacts on Asia and the Pacific.
Kenan Institute Asia (KIA). (2009). Economic Contributions of Thailand’s Creative Industries.
Tian, W. (2021). How China managed the COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Economic Papers, 20(1), 75-101.
UNESCO. (2022). Global Report Re| addressing culture as a global public good. Croatian International Relations Review, 24(82), 134-137.
Utami, R. M., & Lantu, D. C. (2014). Development competitiveness model for small-medium enterprises among the creative industry in Bandung. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 115, 305-323.
Photo Courtesy: https://unsplash.com/photos/K2f_lnXM29Q
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