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Editorial Writer Predicts No Major SARS Economic Impact  in Asia - 2003-05-15

A long-time observer of Asia's economies, Edith Terry, says it now appears that the SARS epidemic will not be catastrophic for the Asian economy as had been feared earlier.

Ms. Terry says the deep fear of two months ago has subsided as progress has been made in controlling the epidemic. Speaking at a forum sponsored by Washington's New America Foundation, Ms. Terry says managing the epidemic and news coverage of it is an important test for the communist leadership in China.

"If it passes the test the assumptions we had pre-SARS may remain. And China may indeed become the core of a vibrant new Asian economy once it gets past the cyclical downturn that it has been in," she said.

China initially sought to control news about the outbreak of the disease in the south of the country, delaying several weeks before revealing the full scale of the epidemic. Recently China has been far more open in providing information.

Ms. Terry, the opinion page editor at Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, believes the economic impact of SARS will be relatively mild for the region as a whole, if the disease is brought under control within the next two months.

"If China, if Hong Kong, manages to get it under control quickly the economic damage will be limited. The Asian Development Bank says it will cost the Asian economy $15 billion. But that's not a huge amount," she said.

Ms. Terry is in America promoting a new book she has written on the East Asian economic miracle of the 1990s.