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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.


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

Date :06 Apr 2017

This report provides a holistic overview and analysis of the current opinions and approaches with regards to managing 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.


The intention of this report is not to advocate for a particular approach, but to highlight the areas of overlap, the opportunities for coordination and collaboration between stakeholders, and why such cooperation is essential. The Executive Summary of this Special Report was released at our 4th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 6 April 2017. The full report will be released by July 2017.


Emerging Trends & Investment in ASEAN

Date :22 Sep 2016

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 Dec 2016

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 Aug 2016

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 Apr 2016

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 Aug 2016

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 :01 Oct 2015

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 :25 Oct 2015

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 Mar 2015

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 Mar 2015

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 Oct 2015

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 Sep 2014

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 Sep 2014

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 Aug 2014

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 Mar 2014

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 Feb 2013

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 Sep 2013

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.