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Partnerships with Countries Such As Japan Crucial for ASEAN for Post-Pandemic Recovery

31 Mar Partnerships with Countries Such As Japan Crucial for ASEAN for Post-Pandemic Recovery

Media Release                                                                             
For Immediate Release

Partnerships with Countries Such As Japan Crucial
for ASEAN for Post-pandemic Recovery 

Singapore, Wednesday, 31 March 2021 – Partnerships between ASEAN countries and other powers such as Japan are critical for the region’s post-pandemic recovery. This was one of the key observations made at the ASEAN & Asia Focus (AAFocus) 2021: Partnerships in Economic Recovery and Sustainable Infrastructure. The forum was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) to enable participants to better understand economic recovery and infrastructure trends in ASEAN and Asia.

Speaking at the AAFocus forum, SIIA Chairman, Associate Professor Simon Tay, said, “As we recover, how do we emerge more resilient and sustainable? We need to look at driving collaborations especially with countries such as Japan that have been long-standing friends of ASEAN. With ASEAN key partners all working towards Net-Zero targets, we have to aim for sustainable recovery.”

The guest-of-honour for the AAFocus 2021 was Ms. Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development. In her keynote address, she noted, “As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we must strive to emerge stronger from this crisis. We must strengthen the partnerships amongst countries and amongst companies, academia, and governments, so that we can develop and implement effective solutions to overcome challenges and build a sustainable future for all.”

Many ASEAN economies are highly dependent on trade and investment flows, including Singapore. Even before the outbreak, trying events such as the US-China trade war had already begun to unnerve businesses. However, it has also benefitted ASEAN. “The earlier wave of supply chain shifts as a result of the trade and tech war have also seen an increased interest in the China Plus One strategy, with ASEAN favoured as the next operations base,” according to Ms. Carol Chong, Director Supply Chain Resilience Division, Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), at the first panel, “Trade and Investment: Shifting Supply Chains and Prospects for Growth”.

The forum’s second panel, “Quality and Sustainable Infrastructure: Bridging Expertise with ASEAN’s Needs” examined quality and sustainable infrastructure trends in ASEAN and Asia. Panellists observed that the pandemic has halted investment into infrastructure development. However, that should not be the case. “The more ASEAN countries look at infrastructure as a continuation of their national policies, the better,” Dr. Isabel Chatterton, Director & Regional Head of Industry, Asia Pacific, Infrastructure, IFC noted.

“Due to investors’ hunt for yield, infrastructure as an asset class is now real,” Mr. Lim Wee Seng, Managing Director, Head of Energy & Infrastructure, DBS Bank. The private sector and partners such as Japan are playing a key role in supporting infrastructure developments. “For Japan, ASEAN is the third most important investment destination – far ahead of China. Japan’s interest rates [for overseas infrastructure investment] are very low, allowing policymakers to take a long-term and life cycle perspective,” said Dr. Masahiro Kawai, Representative Director and Director-General, Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA).

Sustainability was also noted as an important factor during the forum. “You can’t have a vaccine for climate change,” noted Mr. Satyanarayan Ramamurthy, Partner, Head of Infrastructure, Government and Health Care, KPMG Singapore. “Transition financing can help hard to abate sectors move on a trajectory that is Paris-aligned. I don’t think it’s just about building green renewables, but helping brown to turn olive to turn green. That journey, the financing markets can catalyse and accelerate. This is a big area we can move the needle,” added Mr. Lim.

The AAFocus 2021 was the SIIA’s first hybrid event since the pandemic. The AAFocus 2021 attracted C-suite executives, business leaders and policy makers. 50 participants joined the conference in-person while the remaining participants from Singapore and the region joined virtually. The forum was made possible with the support of MUFG.

You may access the event photos here.

Media Contact
Rohini Nambiar
Senior Policy Research Analyst and Media (ASEAN)

About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

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Established in 1962, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is a non-profit and independent think tank committed to producing policy analysis, fostering in-depth dialogues and bridging gaps between policymakers, private sector decision-makers and experts to shape public policy and social responses. Centred around ASEAN focused themes, the institute aims to deliver policy analysis in international affairs and on issues driving environmental sustainability. The SIIA has been consistently ranked as one of the leading think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in the Global Go To Think Tank Index by the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2017, the SIIA was ranked the No. 1 independent think tank in Asia. It was also recognised as one of the top 50 think tanks globally, excluding the United States of America. For two consecutive years since 2019, it was recognised as the No. 1 think tank in South, Southeast Asia and Pacific (excluding India).

About the SIIA’s ASEAN Programme

The SIIA’s ASEAN programme produces policy analyses and facilitates dialogue on how politics and socioeconomic policies in ASEAN impact business and investment in the region. Also closely watched are emerging trends in key economies as well as ASEAN’s relations with major partners China, Japan, the USA and the EU. In recent years, the SIIA has done key work on Myanmar and Indonesia, providing assistance and advice in close cooperation with their government agencies. Key research output includes special reports evaluating the changing political and economic landscape as well as the business and investment opportunities of the respective countries. Key platforms developed by the SIIA to facilitate dialogue are the ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) and the ASEAN Myanmar Forum (AMF). These events bring policy makers and the business community together to facilitate dialogue about the region’s political, economic and strategic challenges.