Written by Martin Russell,
Coronavirus has affected the 10 south-east Asian countries in very different ways. Thanks to quick and decisive action, Vietnam came through relatively unscathed; Singapore also seemed to have the virus under control, before a second wave of infections among migrant labourers took off. Malaysia and Thailand initially struggled, but now seem to have turned the situation around. In Indonesia and the Philippines, the disease continues to spread rapidly. Although weak healthcare systems make Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the three poorest countries of the region, highly vulnerable, they have not reported many infections so far.
Despite such differences, some of the issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic are common to all countries of the region. For example, pre-existing inequalities have widened, particularly affecting low-paid workers in informal employment, migrants, and refugees. Meanwhile, governments are clamping down on free speech and adopting emergency powers, raising concerns over authoritarian tendencies. Although the countries of the region are cooperating with each other and neighbours such as China, tensions (for example, in the South China Sea) have become more apparent.
All south-east Asian economies have been affected, but the impact varies considerably. Vietnam is expected to do relatively well, and several other countries will also see modest growth. Due to a global downturn in trade and tourism, Singapore and Thailand are suffering most. Overall, the region is forecast to see less of an economic impact than Europe or North America, and growth is expected to rebound in 2021.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Coronavirus in south-east Asia: Health, political and economic impact‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.