Recovering and Building Back Better as a Region: ASEAN Chief

Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Dato Lim Jock Hoi has written an article about the region’s COVID-19 and economic situation. The following is the full text of the article.

Recovering and Building Back Better as a Region: ASEAN Chief hinh anh 1

As we enter the third quarter of the year, much has been understood about COVID-19 since it first emerged. Around the world, countries are getting better at managing the spread of the virus, but the battle against rising or resurging cases continues, including in parts of ASEAN. When the pandemic will come to an end remains unknown. For a while, the world will need to live alongside COVID-19.

Beyond the human costs, the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy. The growth outlook for the region has been further revised downward, from initially a 1% growth at the start of the pandemic, to a 2.7% contraction, and now a 3.8% contraction. Notwithstanding, there are early signs of recovery where economies have started to reopen, and the latest data has raised some hope that perhaps global trade is not being hit as badly as expected. While recovery is expected by 2021, it is foreseen to be an “L” or a swoosh-shaped rather than a “V” shaped recovery. Unless concerted efforts are made to address this, we will risk having millions falling back into poverty, seeing a reversal of development progress made over the years, and facing permanent productivity and welfare loss.

Despite the shadow of uncertainty, planning for what comes after must start now. Eventually, vaccine and treatment will be found. But once the health crisis is contained, addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, which will linger long after, becomes an urgent task. Those that are better prepared will have a good head start in the onward march towards recovery. Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery efforts. What is clear is for recovery planning to be effective, we must adopt tailored, practical solutions, with clear political guidance and buy-in to steer our collective work out of this crisis.

For ASEAN, the first and important step begins with the development of a comprehensive recovery framework which already commenced. The ongoing work is being led by the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies, supported by the ASEAN Secretariat. The Working Group is a recently established body with cross-pillar representation and reports to the ASEAN Coordinating Council, the second highest body after the ASEAN Summit. The framework, along with its implementation plan, are expected to be submitted to the Leaders at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November.

The question is then what kind of recovery is envisaged by ASEAN. In my view, ASEAN’s recovery work must provide strategic responses in the following five priority areas.

First of all, COVID-19 is a public health crisis. The Framework must aim to address key vulnerabilities and disparities in the health systems exposed by the pandemic. A good part of the efforts and resources should therefore be focused on strengthening the capacity of the region’s health systems to collectively and effectively respond to this and future pandemics.

Secondly, recovery efforts should put the people at its core, focusing on impactful actions that deliver real benefits to safeguard well-being. Time has shown that in times of crises, it is the most vulnerable who are bearing the hardest impact. Among businesses, the micro, small, and medium enterprises are most affected, the same for low-income and informal workers. The ASEAN recovery framework will need to look at enhancing different aspects of human security, focusing on the vulnerable groups. Defined as “people's safety from chronic threats and protection from sudden hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life,” human security considerations should cover different aspects of livelihood, from social security, food and nutrition, education, jobs, to health.

 

Thirdly, COVID-19 recovery will, in large part, be an effort to pull economies out of recession. Some businesses may not make it back to business, just as some workers may not be able to make their way back to employment. The option of relying on external sector will be limited, as economies outside the region too are struggling. All these are exacerbated by the uncertainties brought about by geo-strategic rivalry as well as the already muted global trade and investment.

There is never a more urgent time for ASEAN to fully realise the potential of its internal market. Removing tariff barriers or formal restrictions is not sufficient. We need to do more to keep the macro-economy stable and maintain financial liquidity, tackle non-tariff barriers, ramp up trade and investment facilitation, embrace digitalisation and dematerialisation of trade, to name a few. There have been recent positive movements, from the onboarding of all 10 ASEAN Member States on the ASEAN Single Window live environment to the recent operationalisation of the ASEAN-Wide Self Certification Scheme; but more is needed, faster and better.

By leveraging on its collective competitiveness, ASEAN can be a stronger player in the broader regional economy. Improving utilisation and upgrading of its existing free trade agreements (FTAs) and ensuring the signing and early entry into force of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) should form part of the region’s recovery strategy.

Fourthly, and as has been extensively and widely recognised, the COVID-19 pandemic propels digitalisation in all aspects of our lives. Digitalisation will be the linchpin of the post-pandemic world. It must therefore be embraced as a broad-based strategy across all sectors and in different dimensions, not just in the economy, but also infrastructure, institutions and regulations, processes, the public sector, social sectors like education and health; and for all stakeholders, big and small businesses, rural and urban dwellers, youth and seniors, across genders, and so on.

Some sectors or segments of population will require greater resources and technical support to be adept in digital technologies and to be assured of access to affordable and quality digital infrastructure and technologies. More than ever, cybersecurity, data privacy, and trustworthy digital networks have become critical underlying conditions for sustainable digitalisation. This is a big undertaking, but is a necessary and urgent element of ASEAN’s COVID-19 recovery.

Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for the modern society. We should not continue the way we produce, consume, work, transport, and travel unchanged. We need to live in harmony with the broader ecosystem. Climate change is no longer a mere threat or danger. It will soon turn into a certain crisis. The effects are already being felt and suffered by many. We need to look after our environment and biodiversity, if not for anything then for humanity’s long-term survival. ASEAN’s COVID-19 recovery must therefore look at strategies to mainstream sustainability considerations into all dimensions of our work, from energy to agriculture, disaster management to financing.

In all these strategies, the governments cannot do it alone. COVID-19 recovery efforts are a community-wide endeavour, calling for support from and partnership with all stakeholders, including the business sector, civil societies, development partners, and the international community.

Just as important as framing ASEAN’s COVID-19 recovery efforts is having a vision of ASEAN in a post-pandemic world. This conversation alone would be deserving of its own space, and should also be informed by the outcomes of the Mid Term Review of the ASEAN Community Blueprints, to look at both contextual and implementation challenges. But one can expect to see an even greater imperative for ASEAN centrality and unity as the bedrock of collective resilience in the region. The crisis has taught us compassion, and renewed the call for a more equal, inclusive, and sustainable community. It also gives us the opportunity to address the weaknesses in our fundamentals to protect lives and livelihoods of not just those who are affected today, but also to ensure wellbeing of those tomorrow./.VNA

 
 

Other News

.
ASEAN-Japan Centre leader hails Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship
ASEAN-Japan Centre leader hails Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship
POLITICSicon  12/11/2020 

Secretary General of the ASEAN-Japan Centre Masataka Fujita has appreciated continued efforts by the Vietnamese Government in holding the good ASEAN chairmanship in 2020, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits kick off
37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits kick off
POLITICSicon  12/11/2020 

The 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits kicked off virtually in Hanoi on November 12, with Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong attending.

Hanoi issues action plan to realize resolution of municipal Party Congress
Hanoi issues action plan to realize resolution of municipal Party Congress
POLITICSicon  12/11/2020 

Hanoi is set to continue to streamline its political system for greater efficiency in operation, and ensure the successful implementation of the pilot urban administration model.

NA adopts Resolution on 2021 socio-economic development plan
NA adopts Resolution on 2021 socio-economic development plan
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

The 14th National Assembly adopted a Resolution on socio-economic development plans for 2021 during its 10th session in Hanoi on November 11.

PM calls for a billion more trees
PM calls for a billion more trees
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc yesterday said he hoped a billion trees would be planted in Vietnam over the next five years.

Colombia, Cuba, South Africa join Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia
Colombia, Cuba, South Africa join Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

Colombia, Cuba and South Africa have joined the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) during the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Hanoi.

Vietnamese, Lao Prime Ministers hold phone talks
Vietnamese, Lao Prime Ministers hold phone talks
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc held phone talks with his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith on November 10 to discuss bilateral ties and regional cooperation ahead of the 37th ASEAN Summit.

Security measures for upcoming ASEAN Summit deployed early: Public security official
Security measures for upcoming ASEAN Summit deployed early: Public security official
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

Major General To An Xo, deputy head of the standing board of the Sub-committee for Security and Health under Vietnam’s National ASEAN 2020 Committee, talks to Vietnam News Agency about preparations for the 37th ASEAN Summit.

Foreign ministers reiterate ASEAN’s resolve to resume East Sea negotiations
Foreign ministers reiterate ASEAN’s resolve to resume East Sea negotiations
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  11/11/2020 

ASEAN foreign ministers reiterated the bloc's resolve to resume negotiations on a code of conduct in the East Sea with China during the 22nd ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Council Meeting held online on Tuesday.

Ministry proposes code of Conduct for cyberspace
Ministry proposes code of Conduct for cyberspace
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said the Government is considering a proposal for a code of conduct for cyberspace in Vietnam and will issue the code by the end of this year.

Signing of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership expected this week
Signing of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership expected this week
POLITICSicon  11/11/2020 

As negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have been completed, member countries of the agreement are finalising procedures to prepare for the expected signing on November 15

ASEAN moves firmly, collectively ahead: FM Pham Binh Minh
ASEAN moves firmly, collectively ahead: FM Pham Binh Minh
POLITICSicon  10/11/2020 

ASEAN has continued to move firmly and collectively towards the goal of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, while dealing with emerging challenges, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said today.

Vietnam achieves desired results of targets set in ASEAN Chairmanship year
Vietnam achieves desired results of targets set in ASEAN Chairmanship year
POLITICSicon  10/11/2020 

Deputy Minister of Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung, who is also General Secretary of the National ASEAN 2020 Committee, talked to the media on November 9 on the implementation progress of initiatives

The need for talented people
The need for talented people
FEATUREicon  12/11/2020 

The 13th Party Congress is an important milestone, which sets the future orientation, continues to accelerate the process of national renovation and international integration.

Five Provincial Chairs elected last week
Five Provincial Chairs elected last week
POLITICSicon  09/11/2020 

The provinces of Kien Giang, Tra Vinh, Vinh Phuc, Quang Ninh, and Ben Tre have just elected new Chairmen after their People's Council meetings were held.

Foreign affairs in the new US President era: Reviving traditional ideas
Foreign affairs in the new US President era: Reviving traditional ideas
FEATUREicon  09/11/2020 

Many experts are questioning whether President Joe Biden's policy will be different from former President Barack Obama’s.

Vietnamese expats in Australia contribute ideas to Party Congress’ draft documents
Vietnamese expats in Australia contribute ideas to Party Congress’ draft documents
POLITICSicon  08/11/2020 

Vietnamese expats living in Australia contributed their ideas to draft documents of the 13th National Party Congress at a virtual seminar held by the Embassy of Vietnam in Canberra on November 7.

Legislature to continue Q&A sessions next week
Legislature to continue Q&A sessions next week
POLITICSicon  08/11/2020 

The 14th National Assembly will continue Q&A sessions on issues related to the implementation of its resolutions on thematic supervision and Q&A during the 14th tenure and several resolutions of the 13th legislature.

Former SBV Governor given warning as disciplinary measure
Former SBV Governor given warning as disciplinary measure
POLITICSicon  08/11/2020 

The decision was made at the Politburo's conference on November 6 under the chair of Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong.

PM requires newly-appointed Vietnamese ambassadors to deepen cooperation with foreign countries
PM requires newly-appointed Vietnamese ambassadors to deepen cooperation with foreign countries
POLITICSicon  08/11/2020 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has required newly-appointed Ambassadors and heads of Vietnamese representative offices abroad to work to deepen cooperative ties with foreign countries and territories.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN