As world-wide business activity comes to a standstill and Covid-19 dominates global headlines, it is easy to overlook other developments and business deals that are still ongoing.
Indonesia confirmed its first Covid-19 case on March 2 and now has the highest fatality toll from the disease in Southeast Asia – and second only to China in Asia – meaning the country now faces its biggest political and economic challenge since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
Myanmar is one of the least prepared countries in Southeast to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and country-wide spread will almost certainly be exacerbated by the recent return of thousands of migrant workers from Thailand. Longer term, the country still has much in its favor.
As Covid-19 dominates global headlines, it is easy to lose track of other news and developments. Here are some of the issues that Access Asia Group has been following in Southeast Asia under the shadow of Covid-19.
It is too soon to say whether Vietnam – or indeed anywhere – has dodged the covid-19 bullet. But, in terms of infection caseloads, the nation of some 90 million is containing numbers better than anywhere in the region on a per-capita basis.
Tensions continue to simmer in the South China Sea as Covid-19, or ‘the coronavirus’ remains headline news. Will the viral outbreak drive the region closer together or farther apart? Either way, it’s possible that Vietnam stands the most to gain.
The coronavirus is not yet a pandemic, but China is so key to the global economy that a Chinese “local epidemic event” is global in its ramifications.
A novel coronavirus is swiftly emerging as a global health risk that will have significant economic, social and political repercussions. The 2019-nCoV, or the Wuhan coronavirus, undoubtedly has access to every corner of the planet – and it is unfolding in a new age of information that will heighten the fear factor.
Taiwan’s advantages as a place to do business are manifold: it’s strategically located within easy reach of China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. It has a massive industrial base – Taiwan is the world’s fourth largest electronics producer – with significant research and development (R&D) supported by public spending. It also has a highly educated and skilled workforce.
By most measurements, the Cambodian economy is healthy. The Asian Development Bank forecasts economic growth of 7% in 2019 and 6.8% for 2020, while the World Bank considers economic growth to be “better than expected” because of increasing exports, growing internal demand, and consistency in foreign investment. But structural problems persist. Cambodia is repeatedly ranked as one of the worst countries in Southeast Asia for corruption. Money laundering remains rife, especially in the gaming and property sectors. The global money-laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FAFT) put Cambodia on its list of countries “highly vulnerable to money laundering” in February. Meanwhile, almost all international financial institutions recommend faster diversification away from low-cost, low-skilled manufacturing, and for Cambodia to carve a niche in high-skilled assembly before others nations in Southeast Asia, namely Thailand and Vietnam, dominate certain industries.