CARI Captures Issue 523: Southeast Asian countries begin reopening process

Southeast Asian countries begin reopening process

(2 October 2021) More ASEAN countries have started reopening tourism hotspots to foreign tourists following Thailand’s successful reopening of Phuket island to vaccinated foreign arrivals in July. The “Phuket Sandbox” generated US$48.1 million in revenue and attracted 38,289 international arrivals as of September 29, out of which only 0.3% tested positive for COVID-19. Vietnam hopes to emulate this success in Phu Quoc island, where foreign arrivals from lower-risk countries will be allowed to return in phases during a trial period beginning November 20. Meanwhile, Indonesia announced that it will begin receiving international tourists from a handful of countries from October 14, though a minimum eight-day hotel quarantine will be mandatory for such visitors.

Indonesian Minister calls for standardized ASEAN travel and health protocols
(6 October 2021) Indonesian health minister Gunadi Sadikin called for ASEAN to establish a common health passport or digital platform—such as Singapore’s TraceTogether app—to standardize health and travel protocols in the region. The minister also highlighted the need to reform the global health ecosystem and shared the country’s aim to have 300 million citizens vaccinated by the end of 2021. Panellists at the Special Ministerial Conference for ASEAN Digital Public Health also discussed the need to reduce over-concentration by leveraging neighbouring economies in the wider region and ramp up digitalization throughout the supply chain to enhance the region’s capacity to deal with and mitigate future shocks.

Southeast Asian countries lead the global Islamic fintech sector

(4 October 2021) Malaysia (1st), Indonesia (4th), Singapore (12th) are among the top 20 Islamic fintech hubs in the world according to the 2021 Global Islamic Fintech Report which measured a hub’s maturity model based on its market and ecosystem, talent, regulations, infrastructure, and capital. Malaysia has identified the digital economy and Islamic finance as key thrusts in its Shared Prosperity Vision, while Indonesia has been developing its Shariah economy under its National Shariah (Islamic law) Economy Plan. Both countries are Muslim-majority nations, making them ideal springboards for Islamic fintech companies looking to tap into the underserved 1.8 billion global Muslim market.

Over 1,000 startups founded by alumni of ASEAN tech giants

(4 October 2021) A new report by Bain & Co and Grab’s new think tank the Tech for Good Institute found that the first generation of Southeast Asia’s homegrown technology platforms has employed over 120,000 employees since their inception, many of whom have gone on to create and lead over 1,000 startups in the region. Eight platforms were covered in the study, which found that 480 Lazada alumni were now founders or chief executives of startups, followed by Sea with 346, Grab with 307, Zalora with 235, Gojek with 225, Tokopedia with 126, Bukalapak with 74, and Ovo with 51.

Southeast Asia sees a sharp decline in education satisfaction

(4 October 2021) Satisfaction with the local educational system and schools in Southeast Asia fell from 85% in 2019 to 63% in 2020, according to the latest Gallup World Poll results, representing the largest decline by region when compared globally. Indonesia and the Philippines led the way with the former seeing a drop from 89% to 56% and the latter going from 82% to 55%, attributable to the limited access to devices and infrastructure for remote learning particularly among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

ASEAN, EU to resume free trade agreement negotiations

(1 October 2021) ASEAN and the European Union (EU) have agreed to prepare to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two blocs, according to Thai commerce vice-minister Sansern Samalapa who acted as chief negotiator at the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting with the EU, United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland and Russia held in early September. The meeting also saw the approval of a joint ministerial declaration on future economic cooperation between ASEAN and the UK in 11 areas and agreements to proceed with discussions for further plans for cooperation.

ASEAN, Qatar trade volume reached US$9 billion in 2020
(5 October 2021) Trade between ASEAN countries and Qatar totalled US$9 billion last year, primarily with Singapore (US$4.3 billion), Thailand (US$2.32 billion), Indonesia (US$895 million), Vietnam (US$500 million), Malaysia (US$480 million), the Philippines (US$233 million), and Brunei (US$48 million). According to the ASEAN Committee in Doha, Qatar is a “key investor in ASEAN”, with investments in Singapore estimated at around US$1.5 billion, major investments in Vietnam such as a US$300 million seaport project in Quang Ninh province, and eminent Qatari companies such as Ooredoo establishing a presence in Indonesia. Around 300,000 ASEAN citizens have also made Qatar their second home.

RCEP Monitor

Australia urged to keep ASEAN onside while building new alliances

(7 October 2021) A new bipartisan report tabled by the Australian Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee urged the government to “remain fully engaged with ASEAN” and deepen cooperation with countries in the region while it pursues new security architectures like AUKUS with the UK and United States (US) or the Quad with India, Japan and the US. The report noted that while ASEAN was “a slow-moving, consensus-based organisation”, Australia nevertheless shares the bloc’s agenda for a “peaceful, inclusive and resilient region of sovereign states” and that the relationship should continue to be invested in.

South Korea starts accepting booster shot appointments
(4 October 2021) South Korea began accepting appointments for COVID-19 booster shots this week as the country continues to cope with the spread of the delta variant, rising breakthrough infections, and declining effectiveness of basic shots. High-risk groups COVID-19 health care workers, people over the age of 60, and workers at senior care facilities will be given priority when the government starts administering booster shots on October 25. The country’s vaccination committee currently recommends getting booster shots six months after the individual is first fully vaccinated.

New Zealand raises interest rates for the first time in seven years
(6 October 2021) The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised its cash rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5% as the central bank prepares to gradually remove more stimulus measures as the economy continues to recover. The hike puts New Zealand alongside a handful of developed economies including Norway, South Korea, and the Czech Republic that have raised borrowing costs in recent weeks as central banks look to wind back emergency measures that were first put in place as countries went into lockdowns.

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