World Bank warns of high bird flu cost

Thursday, November 3, 2005

The World Bank has issued a report warning that a bird flu pandemic could cost the Asian economy up to $283 billion and lead the region into recession. The report has identified the tourist, transport and retail sectors of the Asian economy as being particularly vulnerable to the effects of such an outbreak. World Bank economist Homi Kharas noted that, "One large shadow looms over the generally positive economic outlook we have sketched out... and that is avian flu."

The report, published twice annually by the World Bank, admitted than Asia's recent growth was going to slow down slightly anyway in 2006 (due to higher oil prices and tighter monetary policy), but that a bird flu epidemic could make this partial slowdown much worse.

The report comes just days ahead of an Asian political summit, where the foreign ministers of many of the countries already affected by the H5N1 virus are expected to agree to even closer co-operative measures to help stall the advance of the virus. The foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam have already agreed to closer co-operation to contain the virus and develop a vaccine.