Event Details

The scale of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic in South-East Asia is larger than official figures suggest, especially given the level of crossborder travel within the region prior to border closures. The region is particularly vulnerable to disruption from the disease, given weak healthcare systems, densely populated urban areas and low average income levels.

Like most public leaders around the world, those in South-East Asia face the difficult challenge of balancing epidemic control measures with economic growth. Although all governments in the region have introduced some form of containment measures, concern over the large informal sector has prevented countries like Indonesia and the Philippines from shutting down business activity completely.

Amid the pandemic it is unsurprising that The Economist Intelligence Unit has cut our 2020 economic growth forecasts substantially for all South-East Asian countries. Restrictions on the movement of people will lead to a demand-side shock to private consumption—the primary driver of economic growth in many of the region's economies—which will be exacerbated by weak consumer sentiment. The tourism industry, which the Thai economy is dependent on for growth and incomes, is not likely to recover for months after the resumption of economic activity. Across the region swathes of businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, will go bankrupt, and even those that survive will put off investment plans. Foreign direct investment (FDI) will decline in each country as overseas companies focus on their home markets and shun riskier investments. Meanwhile, as formal unemployment rises, joblessness among informal workers will be higher – constraining the path to recovery.

Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that until a treatment or vaccine becomes available, which may be at end-2021 at the earliest, the coronavirus will remain in circulation, requiring social-distancing practice to stay in place and the intermittent tightening of containment measures.

Wealthier countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, have announced very large fiscal support packages, while developing economies, like Indonesia, remain reluctant to bankroll measures on such a scale. Meanwhile, Vietnam, which appears to have kept its outbreak under control so far, does not have the same impetus to carry out stimulus. The different responses are probably being influenced by the countries' fiscal positions and the maturity of their banking sectors.

Nonetheless, regardless of their size, government support packages are unlikely to slow the economic downturn significantly. Where then, are the opportunities for business in the region? How differently will the impact of the pandemic be felt across South-East Asia's economies, sectors and jobs markets? What political risks loom on the horizon, or has the crisis strengthened the strongman's authority?

Join us and our South-East Asia correspondents from The Economist newspaper, as we review the impact of Covid-19 on the region's economies, and discuss the risks and opportunities for business over the next two years.

Please note that this event is limited to senior-level executives and per invitation only. If you are not an existing member of The Economist Corporate Network, but would like to learn how you can attend our events, please send an email to ecn_sea@economist.com.


8:30 AM - 8:50 AM
Presentation: Outlook for South-East Asia
8:50 AM - 9:15 AM
In Conversation With The Economist South-East Asia correspondents
9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
Discussion and Q&A


  • Miranda Johnson (South-East Asia correspondent at The Economist)

    Miranda Johnson

    South-East Asia correspondent at The Economist

    Miranda Johnson is The Economist’s South-East Asia correspondent, based in Singapore. Previously she was the publication’s environment correspondent, Southern United States correspondent and a science correspondent. She has lived on three continents for the newspaper and has written for every one of its sections, reporting from tropical jungles and the Arctic Circle along the way.

    Miranda’s work has also appeared in the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

    In 2016 she was shortlisted to be the ‘New Journalist of the Year’ at the British Journalism Awards. In 2017 she received the Desmond Wettern Media Award from the Maritime Foundation for her reporting on the ocean. Miranda was educated in Britain and the United States.

    view more
  • Charlotte McCann (South-East Asia correspondent at The Economist)

    Charlotte McCann

    South-East Asia correspondent at The Economist

    Charlie McCann is South-East Asia correspondent, based in Singapore. Before that she was deputy digital editor and assistant editor at The Economist‘s sister magazine, 1843, where she wrote about the arts, music and gender. She is the author of a short history of sexuality, “All You Need to Know: Sexuality”.

    view more
  • Pamela Qiu (Director, South-east Asia of Economist Corporate Network)

    Pamela Qiu

    Director, South-east Asia of Economist Corporate Network

    Pamela Qiu is the Network Director of the South-east Asia chapter of The Economist Corporate Network. She advises multinational corporations on the latest economic, political and market developments affecting business in the Asia Pacific region. She regularly chairs Economist events and roundtables, and delivers custom briefings to senior business executives. She joined The Economist in June 2011.

    Prior to joining The Economist Group, Pamela worked as a policy analyst and associate at the Singapore Ministry of Finance, where she worked on policies to tackle socio-economic problems such as inequality and unemployment. She also worked on policies that were featured in the Singapore Budget. From 2009 to 2011, she was a researcher for the Center for Public Economics at the Civil Service College, the Singapore government’s core institution for public policy and economics research. Her research areas included the role of government in markets, public private partnerships, privatisation, fiscal policy, and behavioural economics. From 2004 to 2006, Pamela also worked as a market analyst with Prudential Health Insurance, based in London.

    Pamela holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in development studies, both from the London School of Economics.

    view more