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Reports and Briefs

SIIA publications offer analysis based on our research and discussions with thought leaders in our network.

 

Special Reports are intended to give an overview of topical issues and provide policy recommendations, for the benefit of both policy-makers and the public.

 

Policy Briefs are detailed and in-depth looks at specific topics, targeted at a specialist readership such as industry practitioners.

 

The SIIA also releases other event and project reports in conjunction with our conferences and other activities. Click the button below to visit a index of our reports, sorted according to tags.

Conference Highlights: Sustainable World Forum (SWF)

Enabling ASEAN’s Green Transition in a Digital World

The Sustainable World Forum (SWF) held on 15 November 2023 brought together key regional corporate leaders, industry experts and policymakers from Indonesia, Singapore and beyond to discuss how ASEAN can leverage digital and technological advancements for green transition.

 

As the world grapples with the mounting climate crisis, there is an urgency for governments and businesses to transition their business and growth models to be greener, especially in growing economies like ASEAN. Digital and green transition can be the twin engines for ASEAN to achieve low-carbon and sustainable growth, but only with all hands on deck. This is a common thread discussed by our panellists and guest speakers, and their insights have been gathered in this report.

The SIIA would like to thank our partners for making this discussion possible –

 

Key Donor: Google
Donor: City Developments Limited (CDL)

Special Report: Incentivising Green Transition in ASEAN

This special report provides research and analysis on a pivotal challenge facing ASEAN in the coming decades: the need to balance economic growth while reducing its carbon footprint. The report identifies three key levers of change that could potentially catalyse ASEAN’s green transition. This includes efforts by the agribusiness, shifting away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to renewable energy and the development of carbon markets. To successfully navigate this transition, ASEAN must adopt a regional approach that capitalises on the unique strengths of its member countries. The SIIA conducted interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders, including government bodies, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to garner insights which feeds into this report.

Conference Highlights: 15th ASEAN & Asia Forum (AAF)

Rebuilding Resilience in a Prolonged Polycrisis

The 15th ASEAN & Asia Forum (AAF) was held in person on 4 August 2023 during a time when the world and our region were facing multiple global crises that some have termed a ‘polycrisis’.

 

Themed “Rebuilding Resilience in A Prolonged Polycrisis”, the 15th AAF drew over 300 participants from a wide range of backgrounds and sectors, bringing together key regional corporate leaders, industry experts, policymakers, and decision-makers to foster dialogue and understanding on how ASEAN can respond to these challenges and chart a path forward. These insights have been gathered in this report.

The SIIA would like to acknowledge and thank our main partner and donors who have contributed to the success of the 15th AAF. They are –

 

Main Partner: Temasek Foundation
Gold Donor: MSD
Silver Donors: Huawei and Moody’s
Bronze Donors: Equinix and MUFG

Conference Highlights: 10th Sustainable World Resources (SWR)

Inclusive Sustainable Growth

In June earlier this year, we held the 10th edition of our flagship Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR) series, on the theme “Inclusive Sustainable Growth”. The insights shared by our panellists and guest speakers have been gathered in this report.

 

The forum drew more than 310 high-level participants, primarily from the financial sector and major conglomerates, as well as agribusinesses and companies in other sectors.

Special Report: Resilient ASEAN and Asia

Learning from Pandemic Challenges

In the three years since the start of the pandemic, many governments in Asia have been eager to transition into a post-pandemic phase, moving past the heavy lockdown and restrictions that characterised the years since 2020. However, the pandemic continues to inflict costly damages on our economy, with these costs being borne most heavily by vulnerable industry sectors and populations.

 

This Special Report is an expansion of the commentary titled “The dangers of pandemic amnesia” co-authored by Associate Professor Simon Tay and Ms Evelyn Tan, published in The Business Times on 20 May 2023. Emphasising the dangers of pandemic amnesia, the report underscores the need to assess the full economic costs of the pandemic and learn from the lessons to prepare for future outbreaks.

Special Report: Haze Outlook Report 2023

The Haze Outlook 2023 report provides a risk assessment of the probability of a severe transboundary haze incident affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore for the year ahead. This is based on research conducted by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), a leading think tank in the region. Our research takes into account quantitative information about weather and other key variables and also assesses policies by governments and corporations. These assessments are based on the SIIA’s engagement with sustainability stakeholders in the region, including government bodies, businesses, NGOs, and academics.

This is the 5th edition of the Haze Outlook, and it has emerged as a leading report on this important issue. The Haze Outlook 2023 was directed by Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA and Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. The authors are Aaron Choo, Khor Yu-Leng, and Ivan Wong, who are respectively Senior Assistant Director (Special Projects and Sustainability), Associate Director (Sustainability) at the SIIA, and Research Associate at Segi Enam Advisors.

Growing intersections between digital growth and sustainability goals

Special Report: Building a Digital-Green ASEAN

Growing intersections between digital growth and sustainability goals

This special report by the SIIA provides research and analysis on the dual emerging trends of digitalisation and sustainability in ASEAN. Through a lens of innovation, inclusion, interoperability and sustainability, the SIIA conducted closed-door roundtables and interviews to garner insights from policymakers and the private sector which feeds into this report. With the lifting of travel restrictions, the SIIA also conducted policy research trips for this report to the ASEAN key economies of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The report launches at the ATxSG 2023, co-organised by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and InformaTech.

Special thanks to our sponsors for making this report possible:

Key Sponsors: Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Equinix and Huawei
Sponsors: Microsoft and Tata Consultancy Services 

14th AAFxSWR Conference Highlights

Conference Highlights: 14th Asean Asia Forum (AAF) X Sustainable World Resources (SWR)

Regional Opportunities, Fractured World Order

In October last year, we held the ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) in its 14th iteration, combined with a special edition of our flagship Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR) series, on the theme “Regional Opportunities, Fractured World Order”. The insights shared by our panellists and guest speakers have been gathered in this report.

The forum drew more than 200 high-level corporate leaders and policymakers who are also keen to expand their regional networks. CEOs of major multinational corporations, financial institutions, investors, and leading global experts also feature.

We would like to once again thank our sponsors who have contributed to the success of the AAF x SWR:

Key sponsors – HKETO, Moody’s, MUFG
Sponsors – Huawei and PSA International

9th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources 2022: Conference Highlights

Conference Highlights: 9th Singapore Dialogue On Sustainable World Resources (SWR)

Harnessing Nature For Climate Action: Opportunities For Businesses And Governments

SIIA held its 9th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources in June 2022. The theme of Harnessing Nature for Climate Action: Opportunities for Businesses and Governments were well received.

The event was attended by nearly 300 participants and received substantial coverage from local and international media.

The 9th SWR was made possible with the support of the following sponsors:

Gold Sponsor – Temasek Foundation

Silver Sponsor – Royal Golden Eagle (RGE)

Addressing the Risk of Carbon Leakage: Assessing the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism

Date : 06 October 2022

Download the Working Paper here

As countries adopt climate action policies and emissions reduction targets, there is growing concern about “carbon leakage”, where efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one country can inadvertently result in an increase in high-carbon production or consumption elsewhere. While there is no firm evidence that carbon leakage is currently occurring, policymakers are already considering ways to prevent carbon leakage or limit its impact.

The first mover on this issue is the European Union (EU), which is set to introduce a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) from next year, affecting imports of high-carbon goods into the EU. Some of the EU’s trading partners have already expressed concern about the administrative burden needed to comply with the CBAM and have questioned whether the policy is compatible with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

This working paper analyses the EU’s forthcoming CBAM policy. The paper first explains the problem of carbon leakage, before looking at the impact of the EU’s CBAM with a focus on its implications for international trade as well as ASEAN and Asian economies. The paper also discusses other approaches to addressing carbon leakage that have been proposed by experts.

The SIIA would like to thank the Hinrich Foundation for their generous support in making this study possible.

Policy Brief

Asia and Digital Economy Agreements: Necessity and Uncertainty

Date : 21 July 2022

Download the Policy Brief

As the modern economy becomes increasingly digitalised, countries such as Singapore have recognised the need to focus on incorporating new digital rules and provisions. Specifically, this has led Singapore to formalise Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) with its trade partners. Essentially, DEAs establish frameworks making digital trade and e-commerce standards and systems interoperable. While Singapore and other like-minded countries have begun forging DEAs with ambitions to expand these networks, the geopolitical aspects of Sino-US competition, especially in the technology field, have brought in a significant level of tension and uncertainty. The effects are particularly acute in regional blocs such as ASEAN, a potential theatre of US-China contestation.

In this policy brief published by the European University Institute, Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA and Jessica Wau, Deputy Director, ASEAN Programme SIIA, assess the need for DEAs and how countries ought to think about developing digital cooperation. It also examines obstacles that may arise from external factors such as great power rivalry, and possible ways countries can navigate these challenges.

Haze Outlook 2022

Date : 28 June 2022

Download the Haze Outlook 2022

The annual Haze Outlook report provides an assessment of the likelihood of a transboundary haze incident affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The haze is a recurring air pollution problem in Southeast Asia caused by forest and land fires, posing serious health hazards and contributing significantly to climate change.

The report is produced by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) with information from several sources and through engagements with our many stakeholders. Our risk assessment is based on three factors: weather (projected rainfall and temperature), people (human behaviour), and policies (climate and land management directions).

Launched at the Institute’s 9th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 28 June 2022, this is the fourth annual edition of the Haze Outlook. Our inaugural report was released at the 6th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources in May 2019. The Haze Outlook 2022 report comprises not only research and analysis, but also builds on engagement with government bodies, businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and academics.

The authors are Aaron Choo, Senior Assistant Director (Special Projects and Sustainability), SIIA, Khor Yu Leng, Senior Fellow (Sustainability), SIIA, Siti Bazilah, Senior Executive (Sustainability), SIIA, and Nadirah Sharif, Research Associate, Segi Enam Advisors. The report was directed by Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA and Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, with input from Lim Choon Leng, Director (Policy Programmes and Development), SIIA. All views expressed in the report are those of the authors, unless otherwise credited.

Charting ASEAN’s Digital Future: Emerging Policy Challenges

This special report on ‘Charting ASEAN’s Digital Future’ looks at the emerging challenges for ASEAN that will likely affect people and businesses in the region. It offers research and analysis on ASEAN’s digital transformation by collaborating with relevant stakeholders and technology companies to gain insights on the future of the digital economy.

Through a lens of economic recovery, geopolitics, ASEAN integration, and sustainability, the SIIA conducted a series of roundtables and interviews to garner insights from the private sector between November 2021 to April 2022, which feeds into this report. The report was launched at the Asia Tech x Singapore 2022, co-organised by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and InformaTech, on 1 June 2022.

Special thanks to our sponsors for making this report possible:

Platinum Sponsor: Huawei International
Gold Sponsors: Amazon Web ServicesGoogle LLCHinrich Foundation, and SAP SE

Special report: Greening the road ahead

Report: Greening the Road Ahead: Building a Collective ASEAN Climate Community

Date : 29 November 2021
Download the report here

The report focuses on climate action strategies in ASEAN, and outlines some key areas for cooperation to decarbonise the overall economy while addressing development priorities. These include:

• Strengthening carbon pricing to accelerate low-carbon activities;
• Harmonising carbon policies to reduce carbon leakage from inter- and intra-regional trade;
• Building robust markets for verifiable and high-quality carbon credits; and
• Working with local communities to scale nature-based solutions with climate and other co-benefits.

The inputs for the report were drawn from a review of academic literature, research reports, and current affairs articles, as well as through stakeholder engagements. Representatives from academia, private corporations, nongovernmental organisations, and the public sector were engaged for the report.

The report is sponsored by the Hinrich Foundation and OCBC Bank.

Conference Highlights: 13th ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) – Seeking Recovery amid COVID-19: Regional Strategies and a Digital Future

Date : 10 November 2021
Download the report here

The SIIA held the “13th ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) – Seeking Recovery amid COVID-19: Regional Strategies and a Digital Future” on 9 September 2021. This year’s edition of the forum focused on recovery from the pandemic and ASEAN’s digital future.

Held annually, the AAF provides an important forum for participants to gain insights to the region’s political, economic, and strategic challenges and have open dialogues on the trends and issues affecting ASEAN and Asia, and how these may impact companies across the region.

The 13th AAF was made possible with the support of the following sponsors:

Gold Sponsors: Jebsen & Jessen, UOB and WingTai Holdings.
Silver Sponsors: Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Singapore, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Huawei and Sembcorp.

Report: From Crisis to Endemic: Stumbling or Pressing Ahead?

Date : 25 October 2021
Download the report here

This 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 percent 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.

Conference Highlights: 8th SDSWR (Positioning Agribusiness and Forestry for the Future: Turning Risk into Opportunity)

Date : 09 September 2021
Download the report here

While there were many negatives from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been a positive development in the growing recognition that the global community must urgently and effectively address the climate crisis. This was the call made by speakers at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR), held in May 2021.

 

The SDSWR is the SIIA’s sustainability flagship event. Held annually since 2014, the SDSWR facilitates dialogues between governments, the private sector, experts and NGOs, to help drive the transition of ASEAN towards sustainability. Past keynote speakers have included ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Panel discussions have included CEOs of major multinational corporations, financial institutions, investors, and leading global experts.

Report: NEW HORIZONS – GLOBAL AND REGIONAL STRATEGIES FOR SINGAPORE’S FUTURE

Date : 26 August 2021
Download the report here

We write this Report to offer views about Singapore’s future growth strategies and do so at considerable risk of being proven wrong. 2020 was a most unusual year for the world and for Singapore. While 2021 has seen promising signs of recovery, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not over.

This Report summarises our analysis and recommendations regarding post-COVID-19 strategies for Singapore. In the first section, we consider the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, as well as global trends that have accelerated due to the crisis, and the implications for Singapore. In the second section, we argue for a suite of strategies that, while not startlingly new, can in combination be seen to represent a sea change for Singapore. In the third section, we provide more specific recommendations for policies, actions, and institutions.

Inputs have come from dialogues with leading private sector companies held under the SIIA’s “New Horizons” programme. Others are drawn from the SIIA’s own key policy work, especially on ASEAN and on sustainability. The EST co-chairs have encouraged this work, acknowledging that the government task force does not have a “monopoly of ideas”, and hope to tap upon “collective wisdom and experiences”. We hope that the ideas and recommendations presented here might be part of a broad public conversation about our future.

Report: Haze Outlook 2021

Date : 22 June 2021
Download the report here

The Haze Outlook 2021 Report provides a risk assessment of the probability of a severe transboundary haze incident affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in 2021. The haze is a recurring air pollution problem in Southeast Asia caused by forest and land fires, posing serious health hazards and contributing significantly to climate change. The Report is produced by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) with information from several sources and through engagements with our many stakeholders. Our risk assessment is based on three factors: weather (projected rainfall and temperature), peat (land management policies), and people (human behaviour).

 

This is the third annual edition of the Haze Outlook. Our inaugural report was released at the 6th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, organised in May 2019 by the SIIA. The Haze Outlook 2021 Report comprises not only research and analysis but also builds on the SIIA’s ongoing engagement with sustainability stakeholders in the region. A total of 25 stakeholders were interviewed and consulted for this report, representing a cross-section of government bodies, financial institutions, businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and academics.

 

The authors are Aaron Choo, Senior Assistant Director (Special Projects and Sustainability), SIIA, Khor Yu Leng, Associate Fellow (Sustainability), SIIA, Siti Bazilah, Senior Executive (Sustainability), SIIA, and Nadirah Sharif, Research Associate, Segi Enam Advisors. The report was edited by Meixi Gan, Deputy Director (Sustainability), SIIA, with feedback from Chen Chen Lee, Senior Fellow, SIIA, and directed by Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA and Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. All views expressed in the report are those of the authors, unless otherwise credited.

Conference Highlights: 7th SDSWR (Agroforestry for Sustainability: Climate, Conservation and Communities in ASEAN)

Date : 24 Feb 2021
Download the report here

The Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) is a flagship event of the SIIA’s Sustainability programme. Into its 7th edition, the SDSWR focuses on issues related to the prevention and mitigation of transboundary haze, as well as sustainability issues in ASEAN’s agribusiness and forestry sectors.

 

In November last year, the 7th SDSWR was held thick in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic while seeking to recover from its economic fallout. The event featured keynote speakers Ms. Grace Fu, Singapore’s Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, and Mr. Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, alongside other renown speakers from the public and private sectors.

 

Do keep a lookout for the 8th SDSWR, which is being scheduled for May 2021. This year, the Dialogue will continue to explore promising directions for ASEAN’s resource sector in a post-COVID-19 world, in the context of climate action. Watch this space for details.

ESG in Practice: A Closer Look at Sustainability in ASEAN’s Palm Oil and Pulpwood Sectors

Date : 03 November 2020
Download the report here

The report begins with an analysis of how ESG considerations have developed in the agribusiness and forestry sectors, reviewing the changing demands of customers and financiers, the proliferation of sustainability reporting and rating schemes, and how materiality in ESG should be defined for these sectors. The following sections assess the leading companies’ implementation of environmental, social, and governance practices respectively, highlighting developments and gaps within the ESG landscape, before discussing how these ESG issues are approached by medium-sized companies in the industry. The penultimate section turns to important recent externalities that may impact ESG implementation, such as lower commodity prices and COVID-19.

 

Finally, the report proposes recommendations to address gaps and better align producers, consumers, financiers, and regulators, in order to collectively pursue robust and realistic standards for sustainability. Efforts are required in four main areas: (1) positive reinforcement for companies raising their ESG standards; (2) promoting sustainable finance; (3) harmonising standards and disclosures; as well as (4) “raising the floor” to help smaller players implement sustainable practices.

Special Report: Renewed Concerns in Key ASEAN Economies

Date : 06 August 2020
Download the report here

This report examines how key ASEAN economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – are emerging after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The four countries surveyed in this report represent some 70 per cent of the total ASEAN GDP.

 

This report will consider pre-existing economic and political challenges and how some of these have either stabilised or been sharpened and aggravated by the pandemic.

SIIA Haze Outlook 2020

Date : 25 June 2020
Download the report here

The SIIA Haze Outlook 2020 report provides a risk assessment of the probability of a severe transboundary haze incident affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The haze is a recurring air pollution problem in Southeast Asia, posing serious health hazards and contributing significantly to climate change. The SIIA Haze Outlook is produced by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) with information from several sources and through engagements with our many stakeholders. Our risk assessment is based on three factors: weather (temperature and rainfall conditions), peat (policies and action related to peatland management), and people (fire prevention and suppression efforts on the ground). The SIIA Haze Outlook 2020 is supported by the Lee Foundation.

 

This is the second annual edition of the SIIA Haze Outlook. Our inaugural report was released at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, organised in May 2019 by the SIIA. The SIIA Haze Outlook 2020 comprises not only research and analysis but also builds on the SIIA’s ongoing engagement with sustainability and resource sector stakeholders in the region. A total of 13 stakeholders were interviewed for this report, representing a cross-section of palm oil companies, pulp and paper (pulpwood) companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and academics.

 

The SIIA Haze Outlook 2020 was directed by Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA. The authors are Meixi Gan, Assistant Director (Sustainability), SIIA, Aaron Choo, Assistant Director (International Affairs and Digital Media), SIIA, Khor Yu Leng, Associate Fellow (Sustainability), SIIA, and Nadirah Sharif, Research Associate, Segi Enam Advisors. All views expressed in the report are those of the authors, unless otherwise credited.

Financing Sustainable Infrastructure in ASEAN

Date : 02 April 2020
Download the report here

With Southeast Asia facing a funding deficit to meet its burgeoning energy and infrastructure needs, the region needs stronger coordination, skills and transparency in elevating sustainable projects to investors. These findings, amongst 10 recommendations to government, banks and business, were shared in this report by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. The report was supported by HSBC and exclusive knowledge partner, KPMG in Singapore.

 

Titled “Financing Sustainable Infrastructure in ASEAN”, the report finds that underpinning Southeast Asia’s underutilisation of sustainable financing – in order to meet its vast infrastructure needs – is a lack of commonality in environmental and social (E&S) standards and risks considered by financial institutions, project developers, multilateral institutions and governments.

 

The findings of the study stemmed from secondary research, two working group meetings and closed-door interviews involving a total of 118 representatives from 49 organisations. These organisations included government agencies, multilateral organisations, banks and investors, and project developers, financial services companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academics.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: 12TH AAF (The Sino-American Conflict & ASEAN)

Date : 29 August 2019
Download the report here

Over the course of 2019, the trade war between the United States and China has intensified. Although negotiators from both countries are continuing to work towards a trade deal, there are growing concerns that the trade frictions are merely a symptom of increasing strategic competition between the two superpowers.

 

To help business leaders and policymakers understand the implications of the Sino-American tensions and how Asia is responding, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) held our 12th ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) based on the theme, “The Sino-American Conflict and ASEAN: Surviving, Transforming, Succeeding”.

 

The 12th AAF took place on Thursday, 29 August 2019, at the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore. The forum brought together over 200 senior corporate leaders, diplomats, academics, and members of the media.

 

The forum featured views from Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore, Dr Ong Kian Ming, Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry, Malaysia, and experts from around the region.

 

Panellists at the 12th AAF agreed that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other Asian economies need to continue moving forward with regional integration amidst the Sino-American tensions. This includes concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, investing in infrastructure, and harnessing the digital economy. (Read more in this Conference Highlights)

Special Report: The Sino-American Conflict and ASEAN – Surviving, Transforming, Succeeding

Date : 29 August 2019
Download the report here

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The old proverb rings true as countries within the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) have to reckon with two superpowers clashing on the global arena. The trade war between the US and China is causing stock markets and investment flows to falter. But the conflict goes deeper than just trade. Battle lines have been drawn in technology, education, intellectual property, infrastructure and maritime behaviour. The effect has been widespread as multinationals rethink strategies, countries feel pressured to take sides, and growth forecasts begin to get downgraded. As of August 2019, when this report was being written, developments were still unfolding at a rapid pace. However, it is clear that the US-China conflict has deep roots, and is likely to be long-lasting.

 

The challenge is for ASEAN to remain united amid the fragmentation of a rules based international order. It is a breakdown of a system that used to facilitate an era of globalisation that encouraged the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. It is the recognition that other countries, apart from the US and China, need to work together to help strengthen a weakening global trading system. Complex global supply chains are already being unravelled, which may bring some benefits to Southeast Asia, albeit short-lived ones. This report highlights how ASEAN centrality and collective leadership can act as a bulwark against the long-term negative effects of the Sino-US conflict.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: 6TH SDSWR (ASEAN’S PATHWAY TO SUSTAINABILITY)

Date : 24 July 2019
Download the report here

Global attention to climate change and sustainability are driving dramatic and new challenges for ASEAN’s agroforestry sector. Demands by governments and consumers are pressuring producers as well as major purchasers and financial institutions involved in the supply chains of key products in this sector. While undertaking sustainable practices comes with costs, the new paradigms for the sector in environmental protection also offer opportunities for growth for those who adjust and innovate.

 

For years, the fires and haze pollution signalled the deforestation and environmental harms associated with the agroforestry sector in the region. Yet while concerns remain, there have been fewer fires and less haze in the ASEAN region since 2015, despite increasingly dry climatic conditions across the world. This record indicates the greater attention and better management given to prevent environmental harms. Governments and companies have also taken additional steps to increase accountability and track progress by setting various sustainability targets, such as ASEAN’s goal of a haze-free region by 2020.

 

However, the work does not stop here. As we take stock of the efforts undertaken by various stakeholders and their initial successes, questions arise whether ASEAN’s agroforestry and resource sectors can go further to address broader and more ambitious goals in climate change and sustainability, and how greater responsibilities and innovative responses can be fostered across supply chains.

 

To explore these questions, the SIIA hosted the 6th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) on 2 May 2019 at the Fullerton Hotel Singapore. More than 300 representatives from governments, the private sector, NGOs, academia, and the media participated in the full-day conference.

 

The report captures the key messages of the 6th SDSWR.

SPECIAL REPORT: SIIA HAZE OUTLOOK FOR SOUTHERN ASEAN

Date : 27 June 2019
Download the report here

Note: This is the full Special Report for Phase One of the SIIA Haze Outlook for Southern ASEAN. For the summary version, please visit: https://www.siiaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/SIIA-Haze-Outlook-Summary-Report.pdf

The Southeast Asian haze shrouds much of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Indonesia in hazardous air pollution during the mid-year dry season. The SIIA Haze Outlook is a risk-based assessment tool for understanding the probability of the incidence and severity of transboundary haze in the region. The SIIA Haze Outlook builds on work by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) to understand the haze and actively engage stakeholders from the public, private, and people sectors.

 

Launched at our 6th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) on 2 May 2019, Phase One of the SIIA Haze Outlook for Southern ASEAN presents an initial risk assessment framework based on meteorological data, and taking into account efforts by government, NGO, and private sector actors to mitigate the drivers of haze. Going forward, we hope to gather more input from stakeholders to present a more complete risk assessment.

Report: Palm Oil and Biofuels

Date : 02 May 2019
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This Report offers an examination of the landscape in major consumer markets – namely, Europe, China and India – in terms of their demand for sustainable palm oil and their major challenges. It draws on existing literature about palm oil and biofuels, as well as 52 interviews with a broad range of stakeholders including government officials, plantation companies, NGOs, financial institutions from China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore conducted between July 2018 and February 2019.

 

It also incorporates key outcomes from a workshop, “Creating Demand and Supply Interventions for Greening Palm Oil Supply Chains”, jointly organised in Jakarta by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) and World Resources Institute Indonesia.

 

The Report begins by considering why defining sustainable palm oil is crucial yet challenging in practice. This is followed by an overview of key milestones and efforts by various stakeholders to achieve palm oil sustainability among the producing countries. The next section examines the baseline for the demand for sustainable palm oil in major consumer markets, before concluding with suggestions for next steps.

Summary Report: SIIA Haze Outlook for Southern ASEAN

Date : 02 May 2019
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Note: This is the Summary Report for Phase One of the SIIA Haze Outlook for Southern ASEAN. For the full text, with bibliography and appendices, please visit: https://www.siiaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/SIIA-Haze-Outlook-Special-Report-2019.pdf

The SIIA Haze Outlook for Southern ASEAN is a risk assessment framework and predictive tool to determine the incidence and severity of transboundary haze in Southeast Asia. In Phase One, the risk assessment is primarily based on current meteorological data, taking into account the various efforts by government, NGO, and private sector actors to mitigate the risk of haze. Going forward, the SIIA hopes to gather more input from stakeholders in the region for future installments of the SIIA Haze Outlook, to present a more complete assessment of the recurrence of fires and haze.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: 11TH AAF (CHARTING ASEAN TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE AND DIGITAL FUTURE)

Date : 18 December 2018
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To help businesses understand the emerging trends and the new drivers of the global economy, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs held their 11th ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF) on 30 August 2018 at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, on the theme of “Charting ASEAN towards a Sustainable and Digital Future”. The Forum brought together some 200 corporate leaders, policymakers, diplomats, academics and members of the media to advance regional thinking and collaboratively address issues ranging from infrastructure to digitisation.

 

This report captures the key messages of the 11th AAF.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: 5TH SDSWR (Climate Action: Seeding Green Growth and Resilience in ASEAN)

Date : 19 October  2018
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For close to two decades, the SIIA has focused on how fires and haze, among the major controversies plaguing the plantation and agroforestry sector, can be managed and eventually eradicated. Ensuring the sector’s supply chain improves its sustainability practices not only matters to producing countries but also Singapore, a major financial and trading hub in Southeast Asia. While the region has enjoyed relatively blue skies in the past three years, climate change, deforestation and labour issues, among others, remain to be resolved. In this respect, some companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are increasingly doing their part to promote and adopt sustainable agricultural practices, form partnerships to scale up their efforts as well as proactively protect the ecosystem in which they operate.

 

As we take stock of these actions, questions arise whether these supply-side efforts are sufficient to mitigate climate change and how we can spur more green investments to deliver the solutions needed. More specifically, what are some policies which governments and corporations can adopt to encourage green growth? How sustainable is today’s plantation sector, and do commensurate rewards exist for pursuing sustainability? Given changing expectations on the demand side, how relevant are current industry approaches, such as certification, as tools for achieving sustainability?

 

To explore these questions, the SIIA hosted the Fifth Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) on 18 May 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Singapore. More than 350 representatives from governments, academia, NGOs, the private sector and the media participated in this full-day conference. This report captures the key messages from the Dialogue, which comprised two plenary sessions and three concurrent workshops.

Summary Report: Making the Belt and Road Initiative work for Asean

Date : 30 Augst 2018
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This summary report surveys recent events and trends that have affected the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and shows that despite these problems ASEAN still needs help in meeting its infrastructure demand. With better management, the BRI can still proceed in ASEAN to the benefit of regional populations. To this end, host governments should not perceive themselves as helpless puppets, but as independent agents with responsibilities to discharge.

 

The full report will be available later this year.

Working Paper: Financing Indonesia’s Independent Smallholders

Date : 18 May 2018
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This report focuses on the prospects of providing green finance to independent smallholders in Indonesia’s agricultural sector, especially those in oil palm. It begins by considering why independent smallholders are important and some of the key challenges they face.  Benefits of financing independent smallholders are then considered, together with the components that can build towards a successful agricultural smallholder financing project. Examples are taken from a selection of existing smallholder financing projects to show how these can be implemented. We then survey some key initiatives that are emerging in different agricultural products, before concluding with suggestions for the next steps that should be considered to move forward on this issue.

Summary Report: Financing Indonesia’s Independent Smallholders

Date : 18 May 2018
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This is the Summary version of the Working Paper: Financing Indonesia’s Independent Smallholders. This report focuses on the prospects of providing green finance to independent smallholders in Indonesia’s agricultural sector, especially those in oil palm.

 

Launched at the 5th edition of the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, SIIA’s flagship event, on 18 May 2018.

Conference Highlights: 10th AAF – What’s Next For ASEAN?

Date : 06 April 2018
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Amidst ups and downs, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has grown since its creation in 1967. It has helped safeguard the peace and stability of the region, which has formed the bedrock for ASEAN economies to grow and surpass global expectations. However, as ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary, the world it faces today is different, and the grouping’s leadership must confront new and diverse challenges.

 

To help businesses understand these emerging trends and their potential impact on the region, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) organised the 10th ASEAN and Asia Forum (AAF), focusing on the theme of “A Future Ready ASEAN: People & Growth in an Uncertain World”. The SIIA’s annual flagship event was held on 5 October 2017 at The Ritz-Carton Millennia Singapore. The Forum was attended by close to 300 delegates, mainly high-level corporate leaders and policy makers keen to expand their regional networks.

 

To encourage closer interaction and in-depth discussions, the SIIA conducted closed-door workshops on the sidelines of the Forum. These workshops were industry led, focusing on specific trends and issues relevant to businesses based in Singapore.  Each of these expert workshops was attended by some 40 distinguished business leaders from leading MNCs who shared their perspectives on the long-term strategies ASEAN and Singapore should consider to bring about its future economy in an era marked by stiff competition and disruption.

 

This report captures the key messages from the Forum and workshops.

Collaborative Initiative for Green Finance in Singapore: Singapore as a Green Finance Hub for ASEAN and Asia

Date : 15 November 2017
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The momentum behind green finance is growing in Singapore. As a regional financial hub, Singapore is well positioned to tap on significant opportunities in green finance. By introducing measures to “green” our financial sector, Singapore stands to become among the leaders in the nascent sustainable financing sphere, and this will help the Singaporean financial sector stay relevant and grow our competitiveness.

 

The Collaborative Initiative for Green Finance in Singapore is a national-level initiative driven by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). The UN Environment Inquiry is our partner, with the support of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS).

 

A report titled “Collaborative Initiative for Green Finance in Singapore: Singapore as a Green Finance Hub for ASEAN and Asia” is the culmination of the series of roundtable, working group meetings and closed-door consultations which SIIA has conducted this year. It establishes the baseline for green finance in Singapore, outlines the opportunities and possibilities for green finance and proposes various recommendations with a view to position Singapore as a Green Finance hub for the region. This report also marks the end of Phase 1 of the Collaborative Initiative.

IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON ASEAN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: RISK AND OPPORTUNITY MULTIPLIER

Date : 07 November 2017
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Already there are tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the Muslim population in Rakhine, which Myanmar sees as illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. What will happen if 1, 10 or 30 million Bangladeshis need to find new homes due to rising sea levels?

 

A new report published by 23 researchers at NUPI and sister institutes in all ten ASEAN countries analyses the consequences of climate change and climate policy for international affairs in ASEAN. Both climate change and climate mitigation are likely to affect international affairs in ASEAN—in ways that are both good and bad—for example through forced migration, strains on food production, accelerated dam construction on the region’s international rivers on reduced dependency on fossil fuel imports.

 

For further details, see the new report Impact of Climate Change on ASEAN International Affairs: Risk and Opportunity Multiplier.

ASEAN@50: From Crisis to Community and the Coming Changes

Date : 05 October 2017
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ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Yet, in many ways, the growth and economic integration of the region can be traced more clearly in the perspective of the last 20 years, following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. Beyond economic and political shifts within member states, the grouping has also grown with the addition of Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, and the need to reinvent ASEAN has gradually been recognised.

 

Today’s ASEAN represents a combined market of over 600 million people with more than US$2.3 trillion in GDP. Two decades after the sharp impacts of the Asian Financial Crisis, ASEAN is now a significant player in the wider region and globally. There are, however, newer challenges that are emerging, together with opportunities. The group needs to respond to these challenges and seize opportunities to move ahead.

 

In preparing this report, the SIIA obtained the views of high-level representatives from leading investors based in Singapore, both multi-national corporations (MNCs) and Singaporean companies.

 

This report was released in conjunction with the 10th edition of the ASEAN and Asia Forum, SIIA’s flagship event, held on 5 October 2017. All views expressed in this special report are those of the authors, unless otherwise credited.

Global Megatrends: Implications for ASEAN Economic Community

Date : 07 September 2017
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“Global Megatrends: Implications for the ASEAN Economic Community” is a collaboration between the ASEAN Secretariat and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). The publication aims to further increase awareness of key issues and drivers of global megatrends, and draw out their relevance and implications for the ASEAN integration agenda.

 

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has entered its second year of establishment in a changing world, partly driven by global megatrends. The transformative changes brought about by global megatrends do not happen overnight, but are rapid enough to warrant prompt anticipation. The AEC Blueprint 2025 is envisioned to create a more dynamic and resilient ASEAN, capable of responding and adjusting to emerging challenges, including from global megatrends. In this new phase of economic integration, the AEC needs to be responsive in its policy processes.

 

Amidst a growing body of literature addressing global megatrends, the publication provides specific references to the ASEAN context. While the megatrends discussed in the publication are not exhaustive, efforts are made to ensure that they reflect the broad spectrum of issues that the AEC needs to take into consideration. The publication is positioned to contribute to conversations and dialogues among ASEAN policymakers, the broader AEC stakeholders, and a wider audience of readers in the ASEAN region and beyond.

 

The publication was supported by the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) Phase II.

 

A PDF of the full book is available on the SIIA website. Individual chapters can also be downloaded from the ASEAN Secretariat website.

SDSWR 2017 Dialogue Highlights: Inclusive Collaboration – Working Together for Sustainable Value Chains

Date : 29 August 2017
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In the past year, the push for sustainability in ASEAN’s agricultural sector has reached a critical mass. Notably, an increasing number of large plantation companies have made stronger commitments to sustainability targets, as well as improved their corporate transparency and disclosure. These effects are in step with the global consensus on the importance of committed action to combat climate change, and of adopting sustainability as an overarching strategy across all sectors of the economy. With commitments secured, attention has now turned to the equally significant challenge of implementation. As the sustainability issues confronting the plantation sector cross both industry sectors and national boundaries, the implementation of solutions also needs to involve multiple stakeholders, especially those who are at risk of being left out of the discourse, such as smallholders and small-medium enterprises (SMEs). There is also a growing realisation that a multi-stakeholder approach will be needed to move beyond immediate efforts to prevent fires and haze, and to achieve sustainability across the whole supply chain in the long term.

 

At the same time, the spotlight in the sustainability conversation is spreading beyond purely environmental concerns to related issues that merit equal attention. These issues include securing labour and social rights for workers and local communities, encouraging financiers to direct capital towards sustainable projects, and leveraging technology to resolve long-standing roadblocks.

 

In order to discuss these issues, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) hosted the Fourth Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) on 6 April 2017 at the St. Regis Singapore. More than 300 representatives from governments, academia, NGOs, the private sector, and the media participated in the full-day conference. This report aims to capture the key messages from the Dialogue.

Myanmar at a Critical Juncture: Growth and Investment in a New World

Date : 28 June 2017
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The world’s political and economic order is shifting, and the National League of Democracy (NLD) administration faces an uncertain and unpredictable global investment climate compared to when Myanmar first opened its doors in 2011. Myanmar is no longer insulated from global events, and cannot ignore the effects of globalisation on its own society and economy.

 

This publication, released in conjunction with SIIA’s 2nd ASEAN-Myanmar Forum on 28 June 2017, considers the changing global order, its impact on Myanmar, and the necessary steps forward for Myanmar. The information and opinions in this publication were sourced through interviews with Myanmar’s foreign investors, and engagement with key representatives from the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).

Special Report: Peatland Management & Rehabilitation in Southeast Asia – Moving from Conflict to Collaboration

Date : 23 June 2017
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This report provides a holistic overview and analysis of the current opinions and approaches with regards to peatlands in Southeast Asia. Peatlands are a special type of ecosystem containing areas covered with peat, a type of soil largely formed from partially decayed organisms. These give peat a much higher organic content as compared to mineral soil. Southeast Asia contains large peatland areas, mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which naturally exist as waterlogged forests known as peat swamp forests.

 

This report will examine the current approaches to managing and rehabilitating peatlands in Southeast Asia on three levels. Firstly, it will describe the regional and national frameworks available to govern or provide direction on how peatlands are managed. Secondly, it will classify peatland management into three major approaches – “full cultivation”, “full protection”, and the “middle approach” – and outline the pros and cons of each, supported by examples. Finally, it will highlight the areas of overlap between the three approaches, and argue that focusing on these areas of overlap through the “landscape approach” enables beneficial outcomes to be achieved without becoming mired in polemical discourse. These beneficial outcomes include reduced conflict with local communities; improved fire-readiness; protection of peatlands from encroachment; increased agricultural yields and profits; and improved monitoring and evaluation of peatland projects.

 

The executive summary of this report was released earlier this year in April, in conjunction with our 4th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources. The full special report and the earlier summary are available as separate PDF downloads.

Executive Summary: Peatland Management & Rehabilitation in Southeast Asia – Moving from Conflict to Collaboration

Date : 06 April 2017
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The Executive Summary of our Special Report on “Peatland Management & Rehabilitation in Southeast Asia – Moving from Conflict to Collaboration” was released ahead of the full report at our 4th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 6 April 2017. The full report and executive summary are available as separate downloads.

EMERGING TRENDS & INVESTMENT IN ASEAN

Date : 22 September 2016
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The SIIA was commissioned by leading European consultancy firm Actagon to identify key and emerging global trends and risks that were likely to shape the future of the business and investment landscape in ASEAN. The report was distributed during the inaugural Sweden-Southeast Asia Business Summit in September 2016.

 

In a world of slow growth and jittery markets, ASEAN economies have continued to outperform global norms. This report offers a number of insights into ASEAN and its key economies: global trends and decisions made by major powers, such as the Sino-Japanese rivalry and the US presidential election, are surveyed to understand how they can influence trade and investment relations in the region. This report also considers changes at the domestic level within ASEAN countries. ASEAN leaders are emphasising good governance, moving against corruption, and integrating into the wider ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). These commitments enhance the sustainability of investments and signal the region’s desire to join the global marketplace, altering the region’s business climate that companies have grown accustomed to.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: 9TH AAF – A NEW GROWTH PARADIGM: CONNECT, INNOVATE, REFORM

Date : 09 December 2016
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South-east Asia is entering a new age of development. Governments across the region are rethinking their growth strategies to ensure their economies continue to register positive economic growth and remain attractive destinations to global investors. Many ASEAN countries are embarking on innovation-led growth and reforming their economies to become more open to foreign investment and trade.

 

ASEAN leaders are conscious of the need to stay ahead of the competition. But many questions still remain. What is the future for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? How will Chinese investments in infrastructure and connectivity advance ASEAN’s future investment climate? What impact will rising tensions between Asian powerhouses have on investor confidence in the region?

 

To help businesses understand these emerging trends and their potential impact on the region, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) organised the 9th ASEAN and Asia Forum on 22 August 2016 on the theme of “A New Growth Paradigm: Connect, Innovate, Reform”. This report brings together highlights from the conference, including perspectives from renowned experts and senior officials on the current opportunities and challenges facing Asian economies.

Conference Highlights: 3rd SDSWR – Global Consensus, Regional Actions: Recommitting to Sustainable Growth

Date : 17 August 2016
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The case for sustainable business is now clearer than ever. Left unchecked, the exploitation of resources will have profoundly negative impacts on the environment and vulnerable communities across ASEAN. On 15 April 2016, the SIIA hosted the Third Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, bringing together over 300 policymakers, corporate players, activists, academics, and journalists.

 

The Dialogue addressed questions such as: How can we reconcile different stakeholders and their competing land uses? What are some best practices for increasing sustainable farming practices among smallholders? How can we increase demand for eco-labelled products among consumers? What can ASEAN’s financial regulators glean from the experiences of China and Indonesia?

 

This report aims to capture the key messages from the Dialogue. We would also like to thank our key sponsors Double A (1991) Public Company Limited and Musim Mas Holdings; our partners Cargill Tropical Palm and Temasek Holdings; supporting organisation IE Singapore; and official broadcaster Channel NewsAsia.

POLICY BRIEF: SOUTHEAST ASIA’S BURNING ISSUE: FROM THE 2015 HAZE CRISIS TO A MORE ROBUST SYSTEM

Date : 15 April 2016
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The 2015 haze crisis will be remembered as one of the worst haze episodes in Southeast Asia. For months, peat and forest fires in Indonesia caused the region to suffer from severe haze pollution, with the Pollutant Standards Index in some Indonesian provinces hitting above 2,000. The prolonged haze exacted enormous social, economic, and environmental costs on the region; the gravity of the situation prompted swift and decisive actions from a range of stakeholders including the Indonesia and Singapore governments, plantation companies, retail companies, financial institutions, and the civil society. Yet the root causes of the haze are complex and there is no single, quick solution to the problem. A tradition of fire-based agriculture and the politics of land management remain at the heart of the issue. Corruption, weak law enforcement, and the lack of transparency surrounding the supply chain in the plantation sector help explain the persistence of the fires and haze, despite the efforts of Southeast Asian governments and ASEAN in the last decade.

 

This policy brief, released in conjunction with our 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 15 April 2016, suggests that in the immediate and short-term future, emphasis should be placed on mitigating the spread and impact of the fires in Indonesia. Stakeholders on the ground, from local governments to plantation companies to local communities should be equipped with the appropriate resources and know-how in fire-fighting. In addition, the Jokowi administration should push ahead with legislation to ban the burning of land, regardless of their size. Clear and strict law enforcement must be followed to punish those found guilty of instigating or causing peat or forest fires. This will hopefully act as a deterrent against anyone seeking to benefit from the fires at the expense of local communities and national interests.

SPECIAL REPORT: JOKOWI’S INDONESIA – SHIFTING TO REFORM AND NEW GROWTH

Date : 22 August 2016
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Indonesia is preparing to shift its economic development strategy under President Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi). Amidst the continuing global slowdown, the Jokowi administration sees the need for a new approach that can lift growth rates beyond current levels and create both more and better-paying jobs for Indonesians entering the workplace. Signs indicate that this new approach aims to move Indonesia up the value chain in global production networks, with an emphasis on industrialisation and innovation as new engines for growth. This goes beyond the traditional approach of relying on the resource and commodity sectors.

 

Indonesia’s aims are ambitious, and many challenging tasks lie ahead for the country. These include rolling out widespread policy changes, providing key infrastructure, reforming the bureaucracy, reforming state-owned enterprises (SOEs), improving the rule of law, and developing a work force with adequate skills and training. This report, originally released at the SIIA’s 9th ASEAN & Asia Forum on Monday 22 August 2016, considers the current and emerging factors that can support the Jokowi government’s economic shift, as well as some of the key challenges that must be addressed.

Special Report: Myanmar’s Financial Sector Supporting the Country’s Economic Growth

Date : July 2015
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Myanmar’s remarkable and on-going political reform process has been followed by an economic opening to trade and investment. There has been great interest to enter what has been called “Asia’s last frontier market”, attracting considerable interest from many companies – not only from Asia but also further afield from Europe and the USA. Initial growth rates have been well above the global and regional average, albeit from a low base, and the potential for further growth is clear. But the opening has brought greater attention to a multitude of needs in the country, especially in basic infrastructure as well as rules and laws. The amount of foreign investment actually realised so far has been relatively modest. One critical factor weighing on corporate investment decisions – whether by those already in Myanmar or thinking to enter – is for the country’s financial sector to develop further.

 

This Special Report aims to provide an analysis on the value and impact of a more open financial sector on Myanmar’s economy. The three sections provide an overview of the country’s economy and financial sector, as well as analyses and observations made in the domestic and foreign banking sector. The fourth section discusses the value of Myanmar’s financial sector opening on its economy, and the final section provides recommendations on the short, medium and long-term goals of supervising the sector.

Future50: The 50 Year Future for Singapore in Asia and the World

Date : 13 October 2015
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On the 9th of August 2015, Singapore will mark its 50th anniversary as an independent city-state. Many of this year’s SG50 celebrations have focused on commemorating our country’s history, thanking our pioneers for their contributions to the nation. But Singapore can also continue to thrive in the future. It is therefore equally important for us to look forward, to assess the challenges and opportunities ahead.

 

This is why the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) created the Future50 (F50) programme in 2013 to map out “The 50 Year Future for Singapore in Asia and the World”. This report sums up key ideas expressed by panellists and participants across the course of our discussions and dialogues. It comprises five sections, covering geopolitical, economic, governance, social and environmental trends that need to be watched in the coming decades. For more information, please visit www.Future50.sg

Policy Brief: Strengthening ASEAN Institutions for AEC 2015 and Beyond

Date : 01 March 2015
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As ASEAN gears up for ASEAN Community 2015, questions have been raised whether this is achievable and what it will mean for ASEAN citizens and corporations. Deeper policy questions also arise as to how ASEAN works and whether its institutions can further support the process. Integration and ongoing economic liberalisation also surface questions of risk from contagion and negative spill-over effects between member states’ economies.

 

This brief will identify the institutional issues that arise and discuss what ASEAN can and should do, looking not just to end 2015, but toward deeper integration in the future. Key suggestions include engaging different stakeholders beyond governments to gather views on the quality of governance of ASEAN institutions, developing centres of excellence on public policy, commissioning project teams on identified key issues, strengthening risk surveillance and financial stability monitoring and taking steps to incrementally enhance policy coordination and foster cross-sectoral cooperation.

Policy Brief: ASEAN Centrality in the Regional Architecture

Date : 01 March 2015
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Asia’s strategic landscape is rapidly changing. Tensions run considerably higher, and are fed by competing territorial claims as well as historic and ongoing differences between China and Japan. Questions have also been raised about the effects of the United States’ influence in the region. The need to articulate and maintain ASEAN centrality faces mounting pressures against such a political-security backdrop. There are also concerns on whether ASEAN can adapt and cope as major powers become more assertive and active in the region.

 

In this policy brief supported by Mitsui & Co., the SIIA argues that ASEAN centrality can and should be maintained, as well as further developed into the middle term. ASEAN must continue to develop its own consensus on key issues and act successfully as a central actor and influencer of events among others in Asia. This would benefit both ASEAN member states and the region.

Special Report: Moving Ahead with the ASEAN Economic Community – Business Initiatives Across Borders

Date : 01 October 2015
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In this Special Report, we look at a number of bottom up initiatives that businesses are taking to drive the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) forward, that other companies may also profit from. The AEC potentially creates conditions to further production networks in ASEAN and some companies are already taking advantage of this. In so doing, the roles of government in providing the right frameworks, policies and infrastructure are also discussed. We will also consider cross border subregional development plans where neighbouring states are cooperating and creating the frameworks to plug in the private sector. In conclusion, we consider an emerging factor for ASEAN – the competition between China and Japan for influential roles in the region, both economically and politically. This need not be detrimental to ASEAN so long as the grouping has a clear direction of its own integration agenda both from the bottom up and from the top down.

 

We do not deny that what the ASEAN governments do is very important and indeed critical for the AEC. We do share concerns that the lack of capacity and will in one or more countries can slow and limit progress. The spectre of protectionist measures made in the name of nationalism is a real concern. Notwithstanding such concerns, this Special Report also hopes to add to the current analyses by pointing out what can be done by businesses and with government encouragement of cross-border frameworks to support a better integrated ASEAN. These efforts can be supplemented with the support of non-ASEAN countries, especially China and Japan.

Policy Brief: Reviewing the ASEAN Charter – An Opportunity to Reform ASEAN Processes

Date : 01 September 2014
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The promulgation of the ASEAN Charter in 2008 was described as ASEAN’s constitutional moment. Negotiated during the course of 2007 by the High-Level Task Force (HLTF), the ASEAN Charter came into force in December 2008. It gave ASEAN a legal personality, and sought to establish ASEAN’s values and norms, including the rule of law, democracy and good governance.

 

The ASEAN Charter is currently slated for a review. However, ASEAN leaders are divided on the very topic of whether the Charter needs review; and, if so, what the priority areas are. This Policy Brief seeks to stimulate discussion among Track II experts and officials on reviewing the ASEAN Charter, to reform ASEAN institutions and processes.

 

It begins by highlighting the underlying tension behind ASEAN’s legal framework and finds there is no broad consensus on the scope and priorities for a review. The Brief then seeks to identify four more limited themes on the review of the ASEAN Charter, to outline recommendations.

POLICY BRIEF: RETHINKING THE EAST ASIA SUMMIT – PURPOSES, PROCESSES AND AGENDA

Date : 01 September 2014
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Started ten years ago, the East Asia Summit (EAS) was developed to bring together leaders of all the major powers concerned with the region. Hosted by ASEAN, the EAS has been heralded as a confidence-building mechanism to minimise conflict and move towards cooperation. Yet it has also been criticised as a “talk shop” that lacks teeth and focus.

 

The SIIA believes that the EAS has the potential to become the apex summit for dialogue among leaders about the key strategic issues facing the Asia Pacific region. In this policy brief, we argue that given the deficit of trust among major powers, the focus should remain on confidence-building. The EAS should continue to be “leader-led”, with a degree of informality to allow a candid and close exchange of views, as originally envisaged.

 

This policy brief also suggests changes to focus the EAS agenda and its work processes. These aim to increase the timeliness and relevance of dialogue in the EAS, to develop a flexible yet viable platform for the leaders to initiate action to respond in times of crisis and need.

SPECIAL REPORT: MYANMAR’S OPENING – A CRITICAL JUNCTURE

Date : 01 August 2014
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Since 2011, the international community has applauded Myanmar’s political opening. Foreign businesses have been attracted to “Asia’s final frontier” and not without reason, as the country opened up for investment. The economy has grown strongly, albeit from a low base. Three-plus years on, however, and there are reasons to see the country at an important, indeed, critical juncture in this opening. Signs are there in both political and business arenas, and 2014-15 may well prove to be a critical period.

This Special Report was produced by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) to offer our insights into the political and economic opening of Myanmar. The SIIA was appointed in 2014 to advise on Myanmar’s ASEAN Chairmanship, and made four research trips to Myanmar from January to June 2014. These visits included meetings with more than 20 high-level individuals from the public and private sectors, and workshops in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw for officials and experts. The SIIA also organised a business and investment conference with the support of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI) and two advisory firms, KPMG and Wong Partnership, for some 130 private sector
participants from Singapore and Myanmar.

SPECIAL REPORT: FROM THE HAZE TO RESOURCES – MAPPING A PATH TO SUSTAINABILITY

Date : 01 March 2014
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Transboundary haze, arising from burning in regions where forests are cleared to make way for plantations, has had a significant adverse impact on the regional economy, livelihoods and the environment. Haze pollution in Southeast Asia has negatively impacted not only Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia where major hotspots are located, but also Singapore and large parts of Malaysia. The haze has even spread to Brunei and Thailand. Although members of ASEAN have made collaborative efforts to tackle forest fires, the recurrence of the haze remains a complex problem faced by the region today.

 

This special report examines the complex issues behind regional haze pollution. It reviews the Singapore Institute of International Affairs’ (SIIA) work on the haze, including a summary of events and published commentaries, and suggests ways to tackle the haze in the broader context of sustainable resource development on the ground.

SPECIAL ENVIRONMENT REPORT: CLEAN CITY AIR & THE HAZE – A THREE-FOLD APPROACH TO BREATHING EASY

Date : 01 February 2013
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Clean city air is increasingly becoming a scarce commodity in Asia. All across the continent, cities are facing declining air quality. Even though Singapore has relatively better air than elsewhere in Asia, it is not something that we can afford to be complacent about. Needless to say, Singapore faces its own challenges. There is a tendency to tackle clean air in isolation from other issues like climate change, and also for normal Singaporeans to leave clean air to the government alone to maintain. There is also a lack of cross-sector collaboration towards keeping the air clean.

 

This Special Report attempts to address such concerns. It consolidates the SIIA’s work on clean city air and the haze, including recapping events and reviewing media highlights and commentaries which examine the challenges of maintaining clean air and provide suggestions on tackling these difficulties beyond government policy.

GROWING AN ASEAN VOICE?: A COMMON PLATFORM IN GLOBAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNANCE

Date : 01 September 2013
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As ASEAN moves towards Community, the group’s increasing integration combines with extrinsic factors to increase the expectation and need to become play a more significant role in regional and global affairs. Yet ASEAN has had to date only a limited experience and its ethos of unity needs to be reinforced. The group faces many challenges in taking on such a regional and global role, including the very different levels of development of its member states and divergences in political and other interests. There are however precedents for ASEAN to act and speak in unison on both political-security issues as well as economics and an increasing need and will to do so.

 

As the group begins to take on a central role in the region and first steps on the global stage, there remains the challenge of maintaining ASEAN unity, fostering shared perspectives and thereby forging an ASEAN platform or common voice in international forums, negotiations and institutions.

 

The essay explores this issue and attempts to provide recommendations toward engendering such common ASEAN positions and platforms in international arena beyond 2015. This paper by SIIA Chairman Simon Tay was published as part of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) Discussion Paper series.