The NTS-Asia Consortium organised a webinar on “COVID-19 and Economic Crisis: Mitigating Impact and Sustaining Development in Asia” on 5 August 2020. The online event, hosted by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) Indonesia in partnership with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS Centre), RSIS, was attended by over 3,200 viewers on YouTube.
Dr Julia Puspadewi Tijaja, Director of ASEAN Integration Monitoring Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat, graced the webinar with an insightful keynote speech on ASEAN’s response to the pandemic. As the proceedings moved forward, Prof Miki Honda from Hosei University expressed her dissatisfaction of the Japanese government’s response to the pandemic that has led to business bankruptcies and closures, among others. Dr Jaehyon Lee from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies presented a rosier picture of South Korea’s success in containing the virus spread. Dr Le Hong Hiep from ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore reported a similar victorious story in Vietnam. Prof Prijono Tjiptoherijanto from the University of Indonesia, however, chose to focus on the positive implications of the pandemic for Indonesia, such as new job creations and quality family time. Major General (retd.) Dipankar Banerjee from India shared the struggle the Indian society is currently facing in containing the virus spread.
The discussions showed that although countries were similar in their COVID-19 responses, progress has varied widely. Constraints at the national level can hamper effective measures to contain the virus. Meanwhile, early reopening of the economy, presumably on the condition of a successful virus containment, seems to be an important factor that can prevent a country from plunging into a deep economic recession. Above all, amidst the tendency of countries to look inward, cooperation among nations cannot be relinquished as it remains critical in this globalised world.