Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


Tough choices dealing with COVID-19 in the Pacific

A Fijian family board their canoe as a sunset lights up the sky behind an island's mountain range in Suva 28 April, 2004 (Photo: Reuters/Gray).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, Griffith Asia Institute

In the Pacific islands region, the COVID-19 story is one of contrasts. There have been few confirmed cases of infection. Many Pacific island countries are COVID-19-free thanks to the swift and decisive actions of governments in closing borders early and keeping them firmly shut. But the danger is not over yet so there is no room for complacency. Significant risk factors are still present in Pacific island countries, including a prevalence of chronic disease and weak healthcare systems despite recent international efforts to provide support by way of funding and equipment.

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Establishing a legal right to healthcare in India

A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) speaks to a resident about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a check up camp in Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums, Mumbai, India, 7 June 2020 (Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas).

Author: Shivkrit Rai, Delhi High Court

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, two incidents highlighted the fault lines in India’s healthcare system. In 2017, over 60 children died due to lack of oxygen cylinders amid an encephalitis outbreak in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. In 2019, a similar incident occurred in Muzaffarpur. Reports suggested that the outbreak could have been prevented if Uttar Pradesh state authorities had taken adequate measures. Read more…

Mind the gap in combating COVID-19

Homeless and impoverished Bangladeshi people receive food provided by volunteers during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 27 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Suvra Kanti Das).

Author: Juzhong Zhuang, ADB

A public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic destroys economic growth and pushes millions into poverty. Without policy interventions, it will also worsen income inequality.

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Cambodia’s COVID-19 success and economic challenges

Employees work at a factory supplier of the H&M brand in Kandal province, Cambodia, 12 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Kimkong Heng, University of Queensland

Unlike Europe, North America and recently Russia, Southeast Asia does not seem to have been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of total deaths and confirmed cases. Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia are the worst affected countries in the region, but Vietnam, Cambodia and previously Singapore, have managed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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Middle powers after the middle-power moment

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at Seodaemun Prison History Hall in Seoul, South Korea, 1 March 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji).

Author: Jeffrey Robertson, ANU

Contemporary understanding of middle-power diplomacy is tied to a bygone era. Behavioural characteristics like activist diplomacy, coalition building, niche diplomacy and good international citizenship, which underpin norm entrepreneurship, always ultimately relied upon the support of the dominant power. That era may be over, and hopes of a revival rest on the illusion of a middle-power moment. So, what happens to middle powers after the middle-power moment?

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Historic opportunity to create a more sustainable East Asia

A floating solar energy farm at a photovoltaic power station in Hongze district, Huai'an city, Jiangsu, China, 18 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Wang Kaicheng).

Author: Christopher M Dent, Edge Hill University

History shows that the deepest economic and social changes occur in the aftermath of major crises, catastrophes or conflicts. They have catalytic, disruptive effects on existing orders, creating new realities and different ways of thinking about the future. East Asia is now in an important phase of its history.

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The paradoxes of private sector development in Vietnam

Labourers work at a shoe factory in Hanoi, Vietnam, 13 November 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Vo Xuan Vinh and Chu Duc Manh, University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City

State-owned enterprises were viewed as a dominant contributor to the development of Vietnam’s economy. But because the state sector is inefficient, and Vietnam is increasingly integrating internationally, the private sector is growing. Over 100,000 new private enterprises have registered under the new Law on Enterprises, promulgated in 2000 as the government’s first attempt to boost private sector development. Read more…

Time to work with Asian partners on a global COVID-19 recovery strategy

Thai Airways idle airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand 25 May, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Silva).

Authors: Peter Drysdale, ANU and Chatib Basri, University of Indonesia

As the world contemplates the savage impact of the COVID-19 virus on the global economy, there’s need to seize initiative in global cooperation to escape the slump caused by the health lockdown. International economic cooperation will be vital to managing the crisis and to supporting the recovery through trade, stabilising markets, faster reopening of business supply chains and international travel. Without it, the world is facing a prolonged health crisis and lasting economic stagnation on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

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Can developing countries handle the headwinds of COVID-19?

Doctors and ICU nurses wearing personal protection equipment perform a CT scan for a COVID-19 patient at the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Authors: Fatimah Abolanle Odusote, Kiat Wah Ng, Lida No and Alfred M Wu, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

How developing countries handle the headwinds of COVID-19 will have substantial implications for the global joint effort to fight the virus and boost post-COVID-19 recovery. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), South America has now become a COVID-19 epicentre, raising more questions around how the developing world can endure the attack of COVID-19. Read more…

A COVID-19 debt shock in Asia?

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass attend a press conference in Washington DC, the United States, 4 March 2020 (Photo: Liu Jie/Latin America News Agency via Reuters).

Author: Paola Subacchi, Queen Mary University of London and University of Bologna

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the level of global debt was high by historic standards. According to the Institute of International Finance, by late 2019 global debt (including private and public debt) was more than US$250 trillion. Public debt, in particular, has increased everywhere since the global financial crisis of 2008.

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China’s National People’s Congress: soft on the outside, hard at the centre

Chinese officials and delegates attend the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 21 May 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

Author: Kerry Brown, King’s College London

China’s convening of its annual parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), delayed due to COVID-19, finally took place from 22 to 28 May. It delivered predictably mixed messages. On the economic front, the tone was almost conciliatory and focussed on the tried and tested message of delivering growth, opening up to the world and regaining the momentum of reform. On the political front, however, the message on Hong Kong showed a totally different aspect. Read more…

The economy dominates South America’s relationship with China and Japan

Grain is loaded aboard ships for export at a port on the Parana river near Rosario, Argentina, 31 January, 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Brindicci).

Author: Nobuaki Hamaguchi, Kobe University

The United States and Europe tend to associate South America with Amazon rainforest burning, pink-tide leftist ideology, drug trafficking, corruption and illegal migration. These issues oppose their values of justice, social stability and global order. For China, whose 2016 Policy Paper on Latin America and the Caribbean states a position of ‘non-interference in each other’s internal affairs’, these are not of concern.

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Building Indonesia’s new capital

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gestures as Governor of East Kalimantan Isran Noor stands during their visit to an area, planned to be the location of Indonesia's new capital, at Sepaku district in North Penajam Paser regency, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia, 17 December 2019 (Photo: Reuters/ Antara Foto/Akbar Nugroho Gumay).

Authors: Lex Rieffel, Stimson Center and Michael Castle-Miller, Politas Consulting

Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s announcement last August that a new capital would be built in East Kalimantan has been widely met with scepticism. While this scepticism is warranted, some of the project’s potential upsides are being overlooked by both outsiders and the government. Read more…

Australia’s return to prosperity depends on mending China ties

Silos are loaded with barley in a farm near Gunnedah, 275 miles (443 km) northwest of Sydney, 4 July 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Daniel Munoz).

Author: Peter Drysdale, ANU

The global economy has taken a huge hit as the world’s major economies shut down activity in turn to fight the spread of COVID-19. The GDP of China, Australia’s largest trading partner, dropped 6.8 per cent in the first quarter this year. Its total trade fell 6.4 per cent (exports 11.4 and imports 0.7 per cent). In that period, Japan’s GDP dropped 3.4 per cent and the United States’ fell 4.8 per cent. The crisis hit China first and hard. Read more…

Vietnam’s textile and garment industry hit hard by COVID-19

A woman works at a garment assembly line of Thanh Cong textile, garment, investment and trading company in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam 9 July, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Yen Duong).

Authors: Jason Q Nguyen and Quan V Le, Vin University

With a supply chain that over relies on only a few key partners, Vietnam’s textile and garment industry is among the country’s hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more…