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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.

Covid-19: Nobody is safe until everyone is safe
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Covid-19: Nobody is safe until everyone is safe

Takemi Keizo, member of the House of Councillors of Japan and World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for universal health coverage, and Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, in The Japan Times (December 4, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)

Covid-19: Nobody is safe until everyone is safe

Covid-19 has devastated communities, systems and economies. For much of the world, and especially vulnerable populations, these past 12 months have been filled with insecurity and hardship. Driven by the common goal of ending the worst pandemic in a century, there has been unprecedented collaboration between scientists to develop effective vaccines and treatments.

Widespread cooperation around multilateral efforts such as COVAX, the initiative to drive equitable access to successful vaccines, illustrates that many acknowledge the need for solidarity in building a coordinated, global response. Some countries such as Japan have already taken significant steps toward preparing the national systems necessary to provide free vaccinations to all, prioritizing the needs of the vulnerable and underserved. Many low- and middle-income countries, however, where Covid-19 has caused even further strain on health systems, do not have the capacity to act similarly.

A synchronized international effort is needed. The UN secretary-general recently noted that ending the global pandemic will require sustained investment in health systems and a renewed commitment to universal health coverage, calling on countries to guarantee that health care technologies are accessible and affordable to all who need them.

Weak health systems can hinder a pandemic response. Technological advancements are crucial to curbing the spread of Covid-19, but they are not a silver bullet. Health, development and human security will be at great risk if communities do not have timely access to both innovations and strong health systems capable of delivering them equitably. Universal health coverage is crucial for addressing inequality. Investing in stronger health systems and accelerating progress toward universal health coverage through domestic efforts and global cooperation will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as lead to smoother and more equitable distribution of health technologies, while helping to protect everyone through the pandemic and beyond.


Disrupted Lives Behind Bars
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Disrupted Lives Behind Bars

Ambika Satkunanathan, lawyer, human rights advocate and member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, in Daily Mirror (December 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Thomas Timlen)

Disrupted Lives Behind Bars

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka conducted the first national study on the treatment and conditions of prisoners from February 2018 to January 2020. The findings are very relevant in light of the prisoner unrest and violence that have recently taken place in prisons in the context of the spread of Covid-19. 

Prisons are overcrowded to 107 percent of capacity. The study found that prisoners live in severely overcrowded accommodation and even take turns to sleep at night, or sleep in the toilet due to the lack of space. Prison buildings are outdated and dilapidated with crumbling structures and leaking roofs, which pose a constant risk to prisoners’ lives. These structures are highly susceptible to natural disasters, and there are no disaster management protocols in place to deal with emergency situations.

Due to the level of overcrowding, sanitation facilities and water supplies are inadequate to meet the needs of prisoners. At night prisoners are locked in their cells and do not have access to washrooms. Prisoners have to use plastic bags or buckets to relieve themselves and multiple prisoners in a single cell have to use the same bucket. Due to poor hygiene and sanitation, a large number of pests, such as rats and mosquitoes can be a found in prisons. The state of prison healthcare is far below the expected standard of care. Prison hospitals do not receive specialized medicine and equipment. Healthcare is far below the expected standard of care. 

Persons from disadvantaged backgrounds are further marginalized by the justice system. Rather than prevention of crime, the prison system pushes persons into a cycle of poverty and marginalization. We need to reimagine the prison system to ensure a safer society. 


In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind
Friday, December 4, 2020
In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind

Fatemeh Halabisaz, entrepreneur and researcher, and Vincent Jerald Ramos, postgraduate student in public policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany, in Rappler (November 30, 2020) 

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: International Labour Organization)

In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind

In calamities such as the pandemic, the youth are left behind, adversely affected in terms of employment opportunities, education and training, and mental health and wellbeing. Public policies ought to be targeted to help them. 

The youth unemployment rate has increased from 12.9 percent in April 2019 to a record-breaking high of 31.6 percent in April 2020. Aside from the immediate disruptions to learning caused by Covid-19, there is also learning inequality. Students from more disadvantaged households find it difficult to continue their education since most of the financial burden from online distance learning falls on the student. An internet subscription is too high a cost for many Filipino households. Add to this the fact that the average internet speed in the Philippines is among the slowest in the region.

Another impact of the pandemic on the youth is a more challenging school-to-work transition. Economic crises tend to cause mass unemployment and create an unhealthy job market, especially for new graduates. Many youths are having to cope with stress and anxiety, which is exacerbated by the pandemic. There are many other confounding effects on the wellbeing of youth such as loneliness, isolation, loss of motivation, and unfortunately for some, possibly even violence and abuse at home. 

The government has both the mandate and the ability to pay closer attention to the youth in its post-crisis economic recovery plans, keeping in mind that they are disproportionately affected during recessions. A combination of passive and active labor market interventions may provide immediate relief to the most vulnerable youth and give them the means to enter the job market. An unemployment insurance program could also be an appropriate long-term labor-market policy response.


Water Scarcity is the Biggest Problem
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Water Scarcity is the Biggest Problem

Huma Yusuf, writer, in Dawn (November 30, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: DFID)

Water Scarcity is the Biggest Problem

Arguably Pakistan’s biggest problem is water scarcity. The country faces acute water scarcity by 2025 and will be the most water-stressed country in South Asia within two decades. Almost 30 million Pakistanis have no access to clean water. One would think that the best way to spur discourse on water scarcity would be to focus on basic human rights: the right to access clean water, food and maintain hygiene. 

Another approach could be to emphasize that Pakistan’s water crisis is in fact a failure in water management, an example of our governments’ and bureaucracy’s inability to deliver basic services. Studies argue that Pakistan’s water scarcity can be addressed through data gathering, improved efficiency, reduced losses and improved sowing. More and better-coordinated government initiatives and subsidies, such as the drip irrigation scheme in Punjab, are needed. The 2018 National Water Policy needs a revamp, and aggressive implementation.

But the water management argument has not caught the public imagination. The national debate on malnourishment, which affects one-third of Pakistani children, also fails to make the link with water scarcity. Malnourishment is highest in Pakistan’s irrigated districts, where agriculturalists prioritize growing cash crops for export over domestic food security.

If Pakistan is to rally around the need to address water scarcity, it needs a new narrative. Water needs to be reframed not just as a citizen’s basic right but also as a political priority, central to our prosperity. Fisherfolk are campaigning for the Indus River to be granted personhood and associated rights. Many see the idea as too radical. But it indicates the desperation of those most affected by water scarcity. It might be just the new narrative we need to talk about our most pressing problem.


Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?

Shih Wing-ching, Chief Executive, Centaline Group, in am730 (December 1, 2020) 

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?

In her policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed an employment scheme in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area for newly graduated Hong Kong youths. The scheme has a total of 2,000 places, 80 percent in general roles and 20 percent in innovation and technology. The monthly salary will be at least HK$18,000 (US$2,308) and HK$26,000 ($3,333), respectively. Participating companies will be able to receive salary subsidies from the SAR government amounting to HK$10,000 (US$1,282) and HKD18,000, respectively.

The chief executive’s scheme appears to be a practical arrangement, designed to attract young people to go to the mainland and broaden their work experience. After all, the mainland market is both larger and more competitive than Hong Kong. As such, Hong Kong employees should be able to develop their skills faster. These opportunities can only be provided under an environment of rapid economic growth. 

In recent years, however, Hong Kong has been affected by the Western trend of resistance to China. Many young people are reluctant to consider the mainland in their career plans. This may explain why the government is willing to provide salary subsidies as an incentive for Hong Kong youths. 

The salary subsidies will mean that a starting salary could be 50 percent higher than the average starting salary in Hong Kong and twice the average starting salary in the mainland. This may sound like a good incentive but may not be sustainable in the long run. Unlike a few decades ago, today’s young mainland generation now outperform their Hong Kong counterparts in terms both knowledge and practical problem-solving ability. It is uncertain how many companies would be genuinely interested in hiring young Hong Kong people without receiving any government subsidies. 

Instead of subsidizing the employees, the Hong Kong government should subsidize employers to open positions up to youth while offering them the same wage as their mainland counterparts. Ultimately, if you work in the mainland, as long as you work hard, the pay will not be significantly worse than in Hong Kong. In addition, the mainland market is large so corporate profits may ultimately be much greater than that of Hong Kong.


Lessons From the Japanese Economy
Monday, November 23, 2020
Lessons From the Japanese Economy

Lee Kang-kook, Professor at the College of Economics of Ritsumeikan University in Japan, in SisaIN (November 21, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Richard Schneider)

Lessons From the Japanese Economy

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), developed economies are expected to record on average a 14.4 percent fiscal deficit and a 20.2 percent surge in public debt. Few doubt the importance of expansionary fiscal policy but the big question mark lingers over the sustainability of high government debt. 

One country stands out in any analysis of government debt. In Japan, public debt began growing significantly in the 1990s because of numerous public-works projects and then through the 2000s with spending relating to the country’s aging society. In 2019, it reached 238 percent of GDP. During all this time, tax revenue continued to decline due to economic recession. Many refer to this time as the “lost decades” as the government was unable to take control of the economy and wage stagnation triggered deflation. 

This negative trend was finally reversed by the policies of Shinzo Abe, who recently stepped down as prime minister. From 2013, the nominal economy started to grow and tax revenue started to increase. This was not accompanied by any significant increase in public spending. An increase in the value-added tax (VAT) led to a positive balance. The interest rate on a 10-year government bond has fallen to near zero and the government has recently been buying back its bonds and now hold about 48 percent of national debt.

The Japanese experience shows the importance of maintaining a growth rate above the interest rate by making use of expansionary fiscal policy and monetary policy. Those who worry about high public debt now may see Japan today as an example and overcome any fear of taking on too much.


How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?
Thursday, November 19, 2020
How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?

Antonio T Carpio, retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, in his Crosscurrents column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (November 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Jeon Han/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Republic of Korea)

How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?

President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized pharmaceutical companies in Western countries for asking advance payment for their Covid-19 vaccines. The president complained: “There is still no vaccine, there is nothing with finality, and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money; you must be crazy.” The president also stated that “the procurement law of the Philippines does not allow you to buy something which is non-existent or to-be-produced as yet.”

The president vowed to prioritize buying Covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia because of their “generosity” in not demanding advance payment. “If the vaccines of Russia and China are equally good and effective just like any other vaccine invented by any country, I will buy first,” he declared.

The president is sadly mistaken in his pronouncements. First, Philippine law expressly authorizes the president to approve advance payment in any amount for the purchase of goods, particularly in case of calamities like a pandemic. Second, China and Russia will prioritize their own citizens since their state-owned companies are developing their vaccines.

The US and EU member states will have priority in the distribution of any successful vaccine since they have invested in the research, development, and manufacture of the vaccine. The US and the EU have calculated that gaining six to 12 months’ head start in deploying any successful vaccine will be worth the risk considering the damage the lockdowns and work suspensions have inflicted on their economies.

The president now realizes that the West, China, and Russia will prioritize their own citizens in the distribution of vaccines and that Filipinos may be among the last in the long queue. So how will President Duterte provide the Filipino people with a vaccine?


Why Invoking the “Ruling Right” Will Not Work in a Cover-Up
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Why Invoking the “Ruling Right” Will Not Work in a Cover-Up

Chang Young-soo, Professor of Constitutional Law at Korea University, in Munhwa Ilbo (November 13, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: IAEA Imagebank)

Why Invoking the “Ruling Right” Will Not Work in a Cover-Up

Although the terrible nuclear incident at Fukushima, Japan, turned public opinion strongly against nuclear power, there was also criticism against throwing out years of research and investment to perfect the technology.

The real turning point, however, came with the release of an audit report on early retirement of Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant I, which found that the economic forecast for the power plant were set too low and that some unfavorable documents had been discarded. These findings cast doubt on the quality of due diligence leading up to the early retirement of the plant and on the integrity of the government.

What has been worse was the administration’s reaction to these findings. Some members of the president’s party accused the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of being “politically motivated” and labeled the decision regarding the plant’s early retirement to be the “ruling right” of the president. It truly is surprising coming from a party that strongly criticized its predecessor for overstepping its power.

In reality, the executive invokes right to rule only in exceptional cases where due to a critical political situation, legal matters are sidelined in the policy decision-making process. Historically, this right has been executed rarely and with great caution, mostly in national crises involving urgent diplomatic issues. The issue of the power plant is not that grave. Furthermore, citing the ruling right in no way serves as a barrier that fends off investigation. Citizens are left to wonder what the political party is hiding behind its outrageous logic. In any case, once the truth is revealed, those responsible will be held accountable.


Exploring Ways to Cooperate with ASEAN in the fight against Covid-19
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Exploring Ways to Cooperate with ASEAN in the fight against Covid-19

Peng Nian, Deputy Director and Associate Fellow at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, in Global Times (November 14, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: ASEAN Secretariat)

Exploring Ways to Cooperate with ASEAN in the fight against Covid-19

Even during the pandemic, China’s commitment to strengthening economic and trade cooperation with ASEAN countries remains strong. In the first half of 2020, ASEAN surpassed the EU to become China's largest trading partner. This boom reflects not only the huge potential of economic cooperation between the two sides but also the strong foundation of mutual cooperation maintained through the pandemic despite shrinking global market demand and increasing protectionism. Nevertheless, the United States still seeks to disrupt China-ASEAN cooperation. China should address the following issues to reduce the impact of such interference.

First, due to Covid-19, ASEAN countries have experienced a decline in economic growth and reduced market demand. China should seek to meet the needs of ASEAN countries while recognizing the needs created by the epidemic, especially through cooperation in the digital economy. China should also promote the establishment of a regional China-ASEAN public-health cooperation mechanism based on the joint fight against Covid-19 and use this as an opportunity to implement the "Health Silk Road" initiative.

Second, to strengthen the foundations of cooperation, both sides should jointly resolve problems, especially those created by the pandemic. While China should continue to encourage domestic companies to invest in ASEAN countries, they should also fulfill their social responsibilities and ensure that investment supports the development of the local economy and society.

Third, China and ASEAN should avoid maritime crises through regular dialogue and collectively oppose any forms of foreign interference. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19, the US has attempted to turn ASEAN countries against China by stirring up the South China Sea issue. China and ASEAN should accelerate the negotiation of the code of conduct in the area and steadily carry out pragmatic maritime cooperation. This will create a peaceful environment for China-ASEAN to deepen economic cooperation and trade.


May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year

Tavleen Singh, columnist, in The Indian Express (November 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Khokarahman)

May Diwali Bring Hope This Vile Year

This has been a vile year not just for India but for the whole world. Except perhaps for our old foe China from whence came the worst pandemic in more than a century. As someone who thinks of China as an evil country, it galls me that it seems somehow to be doing just fine. So we must hope that on this Diwali festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, the gods hear our prayers and help us to banish Chinese soldiers from our territory. May the gods punish China by doing as much harm to its economy as has been done to ours and to the economies of some of the richest countries in the world.

Having got my bile against China off my chest, I feel good. Since it is Diwali, I am going to try to talk about things that may help us all get into a festive mood. What has cheered me up in these long months of lockdowns was the announcement of the New Education Policy. It will be a long while before Indian children in government schools get access to an education and not just literacy, but this policy is a step in the right direction. It is my hope that it will be the first step towards decolonizing a public education system that was created by our colonial masters. It should have been decolonized years ago and, if it happens now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be remembered in history for this.

Now it is time for Modi to concentrate on reviving the economy. His economic failures, that began with demonetization, should reduce any satisfaction he gets from his political successes. When I light the diyas this evening, I shall pray that we will not need masks this time next year.


RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests
Monday, November 16, 2020
RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests

Chu Kar Kin, Hong Kong commentator, in Oriental Daily (November 13, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests

The members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – 10 ASEAN member countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – will reach a free trade agreement. Together, they account for about a third of the world’s total population and 30 percent of global GDP. Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, all have great development potential. In terms of economic and trade cooperation, they have many years of experience in dealing with each other.

The RCEP members will sign advanced free trade agreements on goods, services and investment and trade, involving economic and technological cooperation, Fields such as intellectual property rights are becoming more important for countries to reboot their economies, stabilize employment, and stimulate domestic demand. China is also an important export market for Malaysia’s produce such as palm oil, rubber and fruit. Through the RCEP, the two countries can deepen cooperation and trade. 

As such, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries should be optimistic about the future of RCEP. As an important engine for the economic recovery of various industries in the post-pandemic era, the agreement will deepen the integration of global industrial chains. Certain products and services will have lower tariffs, while member states can set up free-trade zones and establish preferential policies for private enterprises with partner countries. RCEP could even become a mini version of the Belt and Road Initiative within the Asia-Pacific region.

In the 21st century, countries need to abandon zero-sum thinking, unilateralism and protectionism, and actively embrace multilateral cooperation. RCEP is a turning point, boosting the economic confidence of Asia-Pacific countries while laying a foundation for future trade in both Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, supporting economic growth and creating new opportunities. Together, members will construct a global trading system that promotes cooperation through win-win relationships.


Biden’s Win Was a Response to Trends in Sino-US Relations
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Biden’s Win Was a Response to Trends in Sino-US Relations

Chao Chun-shan, Honorary Professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University, in My Formosa (November 9, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Victoria Pickering)

Biden’s Win Was a Response to Trends in Sino-US Relations

While US President-elect Joe Biden's first priority on taking office will be to address the divisions in American society, he will also need to make changes in foreign policy. 

It is unrealistic to expect Biden to return to Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with China. Biden’s key diplomatic strategist and nominee to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has openly acknowledged that China presents new challenges and that the status quo is unsustainable. Nevertheless, Biden's China advisers generally oppose the so-called "new Cold War" and "decoupling" from China. While Biden’s team will need to focus immediately on Covid-19 and emerging economic problems, both tasks will require contact and potentially cooperation with China.

Biden's past statements offer some clues on what his cross-strait policy could look like. After the severance of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States in 1979, the then-senator was one of the initiators of the Taiwan Relations Act. But in 1999, he strongly opposed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act on the grounds that formal military communications would risk provoking China. As such, Biden’s policy may not differ significantly from Trump’s. Furthermore, while Sino-US relations are likely to become more predictable after Biden takes office, the Chinese Communist Party’s objective of achieving reunification is unlikely to change.  

Some people in Taiwan had been choosing sides in the US election. This is futile and the government should refrain from doing this. Diplomacy is about forging good relations so it is natural to focus diplomatic work on the ruling party. The existence of opposition parties, however, should be considered in relations with other democracies. Both the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan must put Taiwan’s interests first rather than using elections elsewhere as a reason to argue.


US Behind Protests? Try Convincing Conspiracy Theorists Otherwise
Monday, November 9, 2020
US Behind Protests? Try Convincing Conspiracy Theorists Otherwise

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (November 7, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Xiengyod)

US Behind Protests? Try Convincing Conspiracy Theorists Otherwise

The American Embassy in Bangkok may be insisting that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has not been aiding any protest leaders to seek political asylum in the US, but it will probably not convince believers in conspiracy theories. That is because of three factors – deep distrust of superpowers, history, and a belief that the young anti-government protesters calling for reform of the monarchy cannot possibly think and act for themselves.

Conspiracy theorists could easily discount the denial made by the embassy by saying no one who meddled into another state’s political affairs would admit it. This is because the United States is a superpower, with a real history of interfering in Thai politics in the past. During the Cold War, Thai military dictators were basically America’s boys.

It was America, during the height of the Cold War, which supported not only dictator Sarit Thanarat but also the Thai king, Rama IX, to play a greater role in society. Given the history, it is hard if not impossible to convince die-hard ultra-royalists that the US is not behind the protests. Some also believe in a different conspiracy theory – that China is fully behind the Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha regime and Thailand is becoming a de facto province of China. Again, China is also a superpower and has a history of supporting the now defunct Communist Party of Thailand.

Conspiracy theorists do not believe in ordinary people’s human agency. They do not believe that people can think for themselves and act independently. They believe people must have a master, be it America or China. This is part of Thailand’s deep distrust and while it is almost impossible to convince the believers in conspiracy theories otherwise, others would do well to understand why some continue to cling on to such theories.


Lesson From the Death of a Delivery Man
Monday, November 9, 2020
Lesson From the Death of a Delivery Man

Chang Sok-chu, poet and literary critic, in Segye Ilbo (November 6, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: lamoix)

Lesson From the Death of a Delivery Man

Another delivery man was found dead in his apartment. The cause of the death was overwork and the incident cast yet another spotlight on the brutal reality of the delivery industry where employees work day and night to meet the daily quota of 400 parcels. Although the surge in deliveries is inevitable due to the pandemic, the harsh reality where already 13 workers have lost their lives this year due to overwork is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Labor exists in many forms. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Wall in China, and the Taj Mahal in India are all products of labor. Put simply, labor is an act of offering one’s time and energy to bring change. In a modern society, most people offer their labor in return for a fixed salary. In such cases, the laborers are “in servitude” to their employers. In a post-modern society, more and more work takes the form of “performance” where laborers voluntarily choose to push themselves to the limit for achievement. Good as it seems in theory, this shift has created the society of perpetual exhaustion that we know today.

Fatigue is a normal by-product of labor. Extreme accumulation of exhaustion, however, is not and should not be regarded as a normal side-effect of one’s achievements. In many societies, avoiding labor for no reason is not well regarded as is written in the Bible: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” A society must reconsider how it defines and values labor when its members are pushed to the brink every day. Labor must always result in a net benefit for both the laborers and the society. One death from a burnout is one too many to continue our business as usual.


What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?
Monday, November 9, 2020
What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?

Hu Min, electronics industry employee, in Lianhe Zaobao (November 7, 2020)  

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: foam)

What if There is No V-Shaped Recovery?

After 162 years, Robinsons has announced that it will close its last two department stores, representing yet another notable retail-sector victim of the pandemic. Many are questioning when the situation will begin to improve. From constant mask wearing to restricted movement, it is not yet clear when this “new normal” will end.

The term “new normal” was originally used to in to describe the US economy failing to experience a rapid V-shaped recovery after the global financial crisis. Instead, there would be a prolonged period of weak growth and stagflation. Today’s global growth outlook is also struggling to recover due to Covid-19 which not only continues to challenge public health systems but also inflict serious damage to the global trading system.

It is therefore vital to respond to this crisis in accordance with both local conditions and national conditions. China successfully controlled the virus within eight months by taking this approach. While Singapore made some early mistakes, the situation is also now improving. It has been important for businesses to proactively adjust their operations – for example, by introducing flexible working to all staff and finding innovative solutions to new problems. A good example would be companies in the troubled tourism and aviation industry launching novelty services, such as Singapore Airlines offering inflight meal experiences on the tarmac.

In this new normal, and perhaps without a V-shaped recovery to look forward to, it will be essential to develop new skills and be ready to adapt to changes. Only through continually adapting and adjusting, can Singapore and Singaporeans hope to make the most of opportunities when the situation improves.