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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.
The Marijuana Challenge: Let’s Not Get Too High Prematurely
Monday, June 20, 2022
The Marijuana Challenge: Let’s Not Get Too High Prematurely

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (June 12, 2022)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: WeedPornDaily.com)

The Marijuana Challenge: Let’s Not Get Too High Prematurely

The decriminalization of marijuana, the first in Asia, poses both opportunities and challenges to Thai society. The positive impact is plain for everyone to see: income generated by growing, selling and exporting marijuana and its related-products for medical and gastronomic purposes. Without doubt, large companies are well-prepared to exploit the new reality, and it is a challenge to make sure that it would not just benefit the billionaires and that ordinary farmers and household growers get a fair dividend. It is also good that some 3,000 prison inmates are being released for possessing or selling cannabis. Also, many sick people who are in pain will have access to alternative herbal painkillers and sleep pills.

The other major challenge is how to ensure that the decriminalization of the growing and selling of marijuana for medical purposes does not lead to widespread substance abuse and addiction, particularly among the youth. There should be little doubt of the trickle-down effect that would lead to the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Nothing is wrong with people enjoying a stick or two once in a while – even if that is the grey area of the law. The concern is how to prevent it from not becoming so widespread and excessive to the point where a significant percentage of the Thai population, particularly young Thais, become dependent on cannabis and addicted. If not handled properly, many Thais will simply vacate to the alternative high universe.

It is all about responsible use and management and we will see in the weeks ahead how Thai society is fairing. I do not want to be pessimistic and generally support decriminalization but I am neither high nor see things in pink. We need contingency plans to deal with the possible adverse effects of this brave new world.


To Strengthen the Immunity of Society Against Covid-19, Build Trust in Vaccines
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
To Strengthen the Immunity of Society Against Covid-19, Build Trust in Vaccines

Jakkrit Sangkhamanee, associate professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University, and Abhirat Supthanasup, National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health Research, Australian National University, in The Standard (March 31, 2022)

Summary by Nisara Panchang (Photo credit: Ministry of Labour, Kingdom of Thailand)

To Strengthen the Immunity of Society Against Covid-19, Build Trust in Vaccines

During the Covid-19 pandemic, public perceptions towards managing the spread of infectious disease in society is essential, in particular, the success and limitations of vaccines. In Thailand, there has been much debate over the effectiveness of each type of vaccine. In the early stages, Sinovac was the main vaccine deployed in Thailand. The National Communicable Disease Committee approved mixed vaccination, using Sinovac for the first dose and AstraZeneca for the second, with three to four weeks in between, to increase immunity to the Delta variant.

The Ministry of Public Health released a report on the effectiveness of the Sinovac from a study in Thailand that the efficacy of the vaccine against the Alpha and the Delta variants was 90 percent and 75 percent, respectively. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, warned against mixing and matching Covid-19 vaccines from different manufacturers. This led to public confusion, as well as criticism about the cross-vaccination plan, which consequently raised concerns over the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine and driven demand for the Moderna version. Citizens have been willing to bear the increased cost of purchasing an alternative vaccine from private hospitals.

A weak vaccine is a vaccine that cannot work effectively in society as a result of unclear information and lack of transparency in procurement and distribution. To boost society’s immunity, the government should build trust and strengthen the legitimacy and acceptability of vaccines.


A Debate Over the Lèse-Majesté Law is Much Needed
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
A Debate Over the Lèse-Majesté Law is Much Needed

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (November 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Pitthara Kaewkor / Shutterstock.com)

A Debate Over the Lèse-Majesté Law is Much Needed

There has been an unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lèse-majesté law, which makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king and other royalty. Protests by monarchy-reform groups have reiterated their year-long call for the abolition of, or at least an amendment to, the law. It was not long before parties, ruling and opposition, publicly took a stance. Any hope that the current parliament will table a proposal for debate was diminished when Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-Cha said he opposes any amendment of the law. “Do not destroy what we respect,” he said.

With elections widely expected by the middle of next year if not earlier, it is most unlikely that the proposal will even be tabled by the current parliament. For many who are passionate for or against the law, the next elections will not just be about how to solve the economic crisis but will partly be a de facto referendum on the law itself if not more.

Any expectations that all the opposition parties are solidly behind the proposal to amend the law were dashed when the parties met and said in a press conference that they take no common stance on the law but will respect each opposition party’s position on the matter.

To amend or not amend the lèse-majesté law, or even to abolish it, is a debate we need to have. We can start by the different groups trying to be more honest about where they stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.


Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access
Friday, August 6, 2021
Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access

Nattavud Pimpa, Associate Professor in International Business at the College of Management and the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue of Mahidol University, in Pratchatai (June 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce)

Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access

To mitigate the health and economic risks associated with unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines, the public and private sectors must coordinate their efforts and resources to address access as a fundamental human right for everyone.

Actors in the private sector, such as multinational corporations (MNCs), SMEs, and local and international startups, should be proactive on working closely with national governments and international bodies on how to support and promote access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for the public.

This issue is complicated by the current high demand for Covid-19 vaccines worldwide as well as the politics of vaccines. Governments lead the way in policy development and the governance of vaccines. Governments also have an obligation to ensure that companies respect human rights and promote them.

Unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines is an obvious human rights issue. It is grounded in broader structural inequalities, putting some populations at greater risk than others. These include legal and illegal migrant workers, low-skilled workers, people with disabilities, and workers on short-term contracts in various sectors. Companies need to design and execute effective and inclusive human rights due diligence strategies that promote access to vaccines for all.

Companies that promote the right to good health via the promotion of access to vaccines could need to re-design their human rights due diligence strategies, bolster their internal capacity to adopt innovation, and engage employees, suppliers, and clients in all steps. Doing so will enhance companies’ resilience, reduce financial risk, and promote management capacity.

In short, the actions that a business takes during this crisis will aid in the recovery of economic prosperity while building a more inclusive and equitable future for their workers, suppliers, and for society in the long run.


Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign

Pravit Rojanaphruk, senior staff writer, in Khaosod (July 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Government Public Relations Department)

Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign

It is clear for all to see that the government of Gen Prayuth Chan-o-Cha has failed its people with its incompetent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The death rate keeps soaring to new highs. As hospital beds, particularly in Bangkok reached capacity, news and images of coronavirus patients waiting to be cared for or put in ad-hoc wards is heart wrenching. Tens of thousands are set to become unemployed. Thailand would be lucky if the economy does not contract this year.

The inoculation process, originally targeted at 500,000 jabs per day, has fallen far short of that. The government failed to secure mRNA vaccines and have had to do with less effective shots that will hardly ensure herd immunity and offer little protection against the Delta variant.

The call for Prayuth to resign is getting louder by day. In a clear signal that he will not resign, Prayuth said that he will forgo his salary for three months to help fund the government’s battle against the coronavirus, a gesture that elicited more anger than sympathy. It will not bring back the dead because they were not vaccinated in time or help those who lost their jobs. It is just theatrics prolonging Prayuth’s stay in power for at least three months.

Even if Prayuth resigns, and not many are betting on that, there seems to be no visible competent alternative. No general elections can take place without a major risk of significantly exacerbating the pandemic. This means Thailand will likely have to suffer more infections, loss of lives and face absolute economic ruin before any significant political change can occur. The hope is that we do not become utterly destitute and the country fall into ruin before positive change can be achieved because that would be a total tragedy.


Myanmar Coup Is An Echo Of May 2014
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Myanmar Coup Is An Echo Of May 2014

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (February 5, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: ฮินะจัง เชียงใหม่)

Myanmar Coup Is An Echo Of May 2014

The military coup in Myanmar sent a political ripple through Thailand, its next-door neighbor, not because of any immediate influx of political asylum seekers (yet) but for the similar fate the two countries share. Nearly seven years after Thailand’s 2014 coup, which is unlikely to be the last, junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-ocha is still in power, albeit as prime minister of an elected government after elections in March 2019.

Thais, particularly those supporting democracy could not help but feel sorry about what is happening next door and consider what they can do about it. They are aware that Burmese were quick to denounce the coup in droves, despite the more ruthless reputation of the Burmese military generals compared to Thai generals. Politicians, academics, doctors, nurses, stars, models and flight attendants protested. In Thailand in 2014, too few people were willing to come out to denounce the coup. Spreading on social media after the Myanmar coup was this comment: “If Thais don’t fight, we will remain like slaves. If Burmese don’t fight, they will remain like Thais”.

It is now up to young Thais to decide what kind of neighbors they would like to be, what kind of people-to-people relations they want to have with those in Myanmar facing military suppression. Will it be one of apathy, selfish ASEAN non-interference, or that of empathy and solidarity? Will Thais simply sit and watch the suppression of political rights in Myanmar unfold and say it is just like domestic violence next door so let them sort it out – or will they do what they can to help stop the rape and abuse? The past few days have been encouraging, but this is just the beginning as more are being arrested in Myanmar for taking a stance against illegitimate military rule.


The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (January 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Government Public Relations Department, Office of the Prime Minister)

The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Confusion, confusion and more confusion can be expected if the government does not learn from its missteps. As it tries to contain the second outbreak of coronavirus, new regulations were passed, then hours later repealed. It was not clear which parts of the country would be in lockdown, when in-house dining at Bangkok restaurants would end, or whether use of the contact-tracing app is mandatory. Things change with little notice.

The government of General Prayut Chan-ocha is like a cook trying to come up with a dish by catering to various tastes. In this case, the prime minister is trying to strike a balance between protecting public health and safeguarding the economy. Face it – the government cannot keep on borrowing money and avoid the economy sinking into an abyss. Prayut must have learned that by now you cannot save people if you push more of them into unemployment and destitution.

So instead of imposing a nationwide lockdown, the government will not even use the word because doing so would imply there would have to be state compensation for workers. Bear with Prayut and his men while they try to figure out how much of a non-lockdown lockdown is too much or too little. We could have expected better communication among themselves, better coordination and more certainty before issuing orders.

Confusion over restaurant dine-in rules, for example, shows that Prayut, despite trying to relegate authority to all governors to decide how best to control the outbreak, still clings to power and will reverse decisions by others to whom he relegated powers if he disagrees with them. For Prayut, decentralization is easier said than done. Let us hope there will be fewer U-turns, more listening, greater sincerity and less confusion. The public deserves better.


Geostrategic Values to Woo Biden
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Geostrategic Values to Woo Biden

Kavi Chongkittavorn, journalist, in Bangkok Post (December 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ron Przysucha/US Department of State)

Geostrategic Values to Woo Biden

The new US administration’s perception of Thailand's geostrategic values in the wake of China's rise and the Covid-19 pandemic will determine whether the US's oldest friend in Asia will be a boon or a bane.

First, Thailand has to bring back that image of a rules-based democratic country that respects human rights. If the Biden administration hosts a Summit of Global Democracy next year, Thailand must be included in the list of participants as part of the emerging liberal democracies group.

Second, Thailand is one of the five US allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Third, Thailand is an important trading partner of the US.

Fourth, Thailand is considered a major regional hub of multinational civil society, especially those with headquarters in the US and Europe.

Fifth, local human rights defenders are fearless when it comes to defending civil rights.

Sixth, of late, the proliferation of social media and bloggers have allowed for the expression of views once considered taboo. Today, all Thai media content providers, which are still lacking in professionalism, report in a way never before seen.

Seventh, Thailand is a good friend of China. Therefore, Thailand can serve as a bridge-builder for the two superpowers, as we have no qualms about being an American ally while being close to China.

Eighth, in the era of the pandemic, Thailand is a great partner for health security. Thanks to more than three decades of US assistance in capacity building and research on contagious diseases, Thailand has developed a world-class healthcare system and capable human resources which have helped mitigate the horrible virus.

All in all, these Thai eight strategic values should help the Biden administration set a clear pathway to deal with Thailand.


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.


Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (September 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: from video by prachatai)

Society Faces Challenges Beyond the Cycles of Protests

The major anti-government protests will not only be about demands – but also about numbers, legitimacy, and how to coexist with those who disagree with you. Anyone can make demands or counter-demands, to their hearts’ content. Being able to achieve their goals without violence or suppressing others is another story.

Whatever the numbers both sides may claim, both the protesters and royalists have to bear in mind that they cannot escape or avoid one another. They cannot wave a magic wand in hope that there will be no more opposition and resistance to their respective “idealized” version of a desired Thai society.

Can there be a compromise, an accommodation of one another – or will it have to be another zero-sum game with no middle ground, with violence, a military coup or people’s revolt as the only outcome?

Thai history shows that change, including regime change, by force is much more common than peaceful transition and transformation. Now both sides, particularly the government of Gen Prayut Chan-ocha must ensure peace and guarantee the right to peaceful assembly.

To make the matter more complicated is the fact that even among the anti-government alliance, they seem to still differ on the priority of what should come first, Is it a new charter, new elections or monarchy reforms?

Many on the side of the protests are young. All sides do not need to repeat the same mistake of the violent past and instead seek a common solution that is peaceful. The time has also come for the young protest leadership to make its movement not just democratic by name but democratic and participatory and transparent in how it is being run.

Thai society faces challenges beyond protests and counter-protests. We have to learn how to deal with them and resolve them peacefully and democratically.


Biden Win a Boon or Bane?
Friday, September 11, 2020
Biden Win a Boon or Bane?

Kavi Chongkittavorn, journalist, in Bangkok Post (September 8, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Michael Stokes)

Biden Win a Boon or Bane?

If Joseph Biden wins the US election, Thailand must prepare a new strategy to "renew" and "reinvent" engagement with the US that will be tougher on issues related to China, human rights and democracy. The Biden administration's approach could be a boon or bane for Thailand, one of its five allies in the Indo-Pacific. With a new administration under the Democrats, the US State Department would again shape overall policy towards its benign ally.

Mr Biden would follow President Donald Trump's templates on China. Indeed, Mr Biden cannot appear to be soft on China, especially at this critical juncture. The US status as the most powerful country in the world has been severely challenged by China. It also happens at a time when Mr Trump's global leadership continues to falter as he continues to damage US credibility with his personal style of diplomacy and unpredictability.

Under a Biden presidency, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia will be high on the American agenda as the key countries in continental Southeast Asia that have close relations with China. For Thailand's future, it is imperative that the US and China have a stable relationship. The most important issue for Thailand is how to manage the two most powerful countries in the world to avoid any miscalculated risks. Healthy competition between China and the US will allow Thailand to balance its "win-win" approach more efficiently.

Southeast Asian countries cannot afford to become anti-Chinese as the United States has often been inclined to be. What the future US administration could do is to help the region to become more resilient and prosperous, so that these countries can engage their giant neighbor in the most efficient and beneficial way.


Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak

Kavi Chongkittavorn, journalist and commentator on regional affairs, in Bangkok Post (August 11, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Madelline Romero/PSI)

Urgently Rethink Pandemic Policies - or the Future is Bleak

Thailand's future might well be in danger if the government does not take urgent action to recalibrate its anti-pandemic policies. All the excellent measures the concerned authorities, as well as the public, have taken in mitigating the coronavirus over the past six months could easily turn against them. Thailand could emerge from Covid-19 with more disgruntled Thais including those who were repatriated. Worse, there will likely be additional unhappy foreign countries including their diplomats and citizens who have encountered discrimination.

Two important trends must be considered. First, public expectations are so high that any new community transmissions will not be tolerated. For the past 78 days, not a single local case has been reported. Thailand has been touted by the international community as one of the world's top countries in containing the virus. Second, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has been tough in handling foreign visitors, causing protests from the diplomatic community. This could have far-reaching repercussions for the country's economic recovery plans.

It will be imperative to educate the Thai public about the situation instead of focusing on the numbers. The CCSA must know how to manage public expectations. Any new cases popping up with more easing of lockdown could have a devastating effect on the government's image and stability. It will ignite a new cycle of the blame game among stakeholders and politicians.

Thailand should learn from Vietnam, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore that opening up the country carries some risks – namely new infections no matter how efficient the preventive measures are – but it is essential to kickstart the country's economic recovery in the "new normal" era. Public understanding of this is essential, otherwise, the future is bleak.


Clash of old and new values: Is Thailand heading for a big change?
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Clash of old and new values: Is Thailand heading for a big change?

Wichit Chaitrong, Editor, in The Nation (August 3, 2020)

Summary of Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)

Clash of old and new values: Is Thailand heading for a big change?

Ongoing youth-led protests have wide implications for the country and it has left many, especially those from the old generation, shocked. It may have been triggered by politics, but as the pro-democracy protests evolve, it has expanded to also impact the core values of Thai society.

By expressing their opinion about the role of the monarchy, the protests have touched on a sensitive issue, which has always been a taboo. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong have expressed concern about the dangers of slandering the highest institution. After the 2014 coup, the military-backed government promoted 12 core values for citizens, largely instructing people to follow the rule of authority, uphold traditional institutions and what is perceived as Thai culture. Liberals criticized the 12 values as a tool to brainwash people or an attempt to drag Thai society into the deep past.

Now, the political tide has turned, and the military's attempt to promote their 12 values has failed. Even schoolchildren are questioning school discipline on hairstyle, opposing traditional values that pupils must respect teachers. University students have raised questions about how the country is run, opposing the value of showing respect to traditional institutions.

Reacting to student campaign for a change, royalists organized a protest on July 30, claiming that their action was aimed at protecting the monarchy threatened by student protests. Observers said most of participants in the royalist gathering were senior people, contradicting the organizers' claim of vocational students rallying.

Where will this clash of values lead the country? “Traditionalists or the conservatives have encroached too much on the space of the liberals,” said Gothom Arya, adviser to Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. They should step back and open space for everyone, by “rewriting the Constitution”, he suggested.


School Hair Saga Reflects Authoritarian Culture
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
School Hair Saga Reflects Authoritarian Culture

Sanitsuda Ekachai, editor, in Bangkok Post (July 13, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cpl Jessica Olivas/US Marine Corps)

School Hair Saga Reflects Authoritarian Culture

A teacher in Si Sa Ket decided to punish a female student for wearing her hair longer than her earlobes. He cut her hair to length but only halfway – not just to humiliate her but also to warn other students to not challenge school authorities.

Social media has been rife with photos showing students' partially-shorn heads. These examples debunk the teachers' oft-repeated rhetoric. Their mission of selfless giving for the future of the nation? It's all a lie.

Here's the ugly truth: schools are the main pillar of Thai authoritarianism. They train young minds to be submissive to power, starting with total obedience to teachers who act like little dictators. By killing a questioning mind and focusing on punishment via public humiliation to extract docility, schools nurture the culture of fear to make children conform with the militaristic system.

Schools are the microcosm of Thailand's totalitarian society. Thai teachers run schools like despots ruling over small kingdoms. But winds of change are coming. Today, students no longer accept abuse. In May, the Education Ministry announced a new hair rule, allowing students and parents to have a say.

As schools increasingly become militarized, students' academic performance continues to take a nosedive, remaining far behind other countries regionally and internationally. Unperturbed, teachers continue to teach the ultra-nationalistic curriculum dictated by the centralized education authorities, because their salaries depend on years of service, not performance.

If we want education reforms, if we want teachers to respect human rights, we must decentralize the education system. We must make teachers accountable for their performance. We must also give local communities the power to hire and fire teachers. Resistance from those clinging to power will be fierce. But as people's values change, a system which refuses to adjust will soon become obsolete.


Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States
Monday, July 6, 2020
Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in The Nation (June 30, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States

Compared to other developing countries, small-island developing states (SIDS) in the Asia-Pacific region have done well in containing the spread of the virus. So far, available data indicates relatively few cases of infections, with 15 deaths in Maldives, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Yet, while rapid border closures have contained the human cost of the virus, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic on SIDS will place Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) even farther out of their reach.

One reason SIDS economies have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is their dependence on tourism. Tourism earnings exceed 50 per cent of GDP in the Maldives and Palau and comprised 30 per cent in Samoa and Vanuatu in 2018. The severe impact of Covid-19 on these economies is also a result of heavy reliance on fisheries, which represent a main source of SIDS marine wealth and bring much-needed public revenue. The coronavirus crisis will jeopardize these income streams as a result of a slowdown in fisheries activity.

As part of the post-virus recovery, new foundations for sustainable tourism and fisheries in Asia-Pacific SIDS must be built. These sectors must not only have extensive links to local communities and economies, but also be resilient to external shocks. Enhancing economic resilience must focus on building both the necessary physical infrastructure and creating institutional response mechanisms.

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder of the price of weaknesses in health systems, social protection and public services. It also provides a historic opportunity to advocate for policy decisions that are pro-environment, pro-climate and pro-poor. Progress in our region’s SIDS through sustainable tourism and fisheries are vital components of a global road map for an inclusive and sustainable future.