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Reopening at a Regional Level Critical for ASEAN’s Growth 

26 Oct Reopening at a Regional Level Critical for ASEAN’s Growth 

Reopening at a Regional Level Critical for ASEAN’s Growth
The SIIA’s “From Crisis to Endemic: Stumbling or Pressing Ahead?” Highlights Risks and Opportunities for the Region

Singapore, 26 October 2021 – As key ASEAN economies look towards resuming business and travel, reopening at a regional level will be critical in restarting intra-ASEAN connectivity, and facilitating the flows of goods, services, and people. This was the key recommendation in the latest report by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Titled, “From Crisis to Endemic: Stumbling or Pressing Ahead?”, the report examines how key ASEAN economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic alongside key economic and political challenges. The four countries surveyed in this Special Report represent some 70 per cent of the total ASEAN GDP. The report builds on and updates the SIIA’s “Renewed Concerns in Key ASEAN Economies” published in August 2020, which charted how key ASEAN economies dealt with the first wave of COVID-19 infections.

On ASEAN’s response, Ms. Lee Chen Chen, Associate Director and Senior Fellow, SIIA, said, “When the Delta variant struck, it is not an understatement that ASEAN countries, even those who coped well last year, started to stumble and falter to the more infectious variant. ASEAN governments have responded in a very tangible way in dealing with this crisis.”

The “From Crisis to Endemic: Stumbling or Pressing Ahead?” report takes a qualitative approach and outlines general trends across the four economies in terms of (1) Sizing and Surviving the Surge; (2) Moving to an Endemic Strategy; (3) Expectations for Growth, Trade and Manufacturing; (4) Tourism and Border Re-opening; (5) Enabling the Digital Economy; (6) Upgrading and Transformation Efforts; and (7) Political Stability.

The following are highlights of the report –

  • COVID-19 Situation: Among the countries surveyed in this report, only Indonesia and Malaysia have suffered that scale of impact in 2021. While Thailand and, especially Vietnam, have been spared thus far, their populations are unlikely to have developed natural immunity and thus may not be well-prepared for the risks of re-opening.
  • Political Situation: These health risks relate to other risks concerning social and political stability. Such dangers were already emergent in Thailand and Malaysia, as pre-existing political schisms were further stressed by the handling of the pandemic. Social anger also grew in Indonesia, although to a lesser extent, as the political sentiments remain largely stable under President Jokowi despite the country suffering some of the worst pandemic impacts in both health and the economy. Perhaps the least politically turbulent amongst the countries covered in the report is Vietnam, with its strong sense of nationalism, as well as the recent change in political leadership shoring up unity in the face of the challenges.

“As vaccinations progressively roll out and economies start to re-open, there are real reasons to anticipate the prospect of a broader recovery in the months ahead. Risks do remain but opportunities in the coming months will increase. The path ahead will not be without stumbles, but some will persist to press positively ahead and succeed,” said Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA.

The “From Crisis to Endemic: Stumbling or Pressing Ahead?” report can be downloaded from the SIIA website at this link.

For further enquiries, please contact the SIIA

Media Contacts

Rohini Nambiar
Senior Policy Research Analyst and Media (ASEAN)
Email:  media@siiaonline.org


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 Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific (excluding India). In 2020, it was also recognised as one of the think tanks with the best policy and institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.