The pandemic of COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis severely affecting the well-being of people all around the globe and in Asia and the Pacific as well. The actual economic impact of the pandemic on the Asia- Pacific region has yet to be fully revealed, but ESCAP forecasts significant slowing down of GDP growth with the fallout being uneven distributed across countries and subregions. The downgrade of GDP growth in North and Central Asia is expected to be among the highest in Asia and the Pacific.
The challenges posed by the pandemic have, once again, underscored the connectivity difficulties faced by the countries in North and Central Asia. Despite the progress achieved in the recent years, the subregion continues to suffer from high transport costs and low transport connectivity levels due it its geographic position, shortages in the transport infrastructure coverage and operational weakness in freight transport operations. While strategically located between Europe and Asia, North and Central Asia has not sufficiently realized its transit potential to the detriment to its ability to integrate regional and global supply chains.
Additional cross-border controls and checks introduced to deal with COVID-19 in North andCentral Asia and its main trading and transit partners are likely to exacerbate the already high costs of transport operations in landlocked countries of the subregion. The road-centric domestic and intraregional connectivity brought about the bottlenecks and operational restrictions, along with additional costs. The relatively low level of digitalization and facilitation of cross-border transport and trade operations add up to existing challenges. In this context, the current policy brief focuses on the link between transport connectivity in North and Central Asia and the policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, revisiting the current levels of transport connectivity and reviewing the transport-related policy responses to the pandemic in the subregion.