Recovery On The Horizon

Malaysia is on track for a resilient recovery after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Buoyed by a high vaccination rate that has surpassed 90% among the country’s adult population, and the pledge by the government to boost the economy, Malaysia is on track to recover strongly from the disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its latest report on Malaysia’s economy, Bank Negara Malaysia noted that the economy grew by 16.1% in the second quarter compared to a contraction of 0.5% in the first quarter of 2021. It also said that the economic performance was supported mainly by the improvement in domestic demand and continued robust exports performance.

Bank Negara Malaysia says the Malaysian economy is projected to expand by between 3% and 4% in 2021. It believes that the expected reopening of the economy will support a gradual recovery in the fourth quarter this year, with higher global growth and sustained policy support providing a further lift to economic growth.

“Malaysia’s growth recovery is expected to broadly resume in the latter part of the second half of 2021 and improve going into 2022,” says Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says that Malaysia remains a business-friendly country that attracts large flows of foreign direct investment and is well-integrated in global value chains.

According to its Ministry of Finance, Malaysia is registering net foreign capital inflows thanks to the positive progress on the National Recovery Plan. “For the month of August, a total of US$1.8 billion was registered in terms of foreign portfolio flows, marking the highest monthly net inflow since June 2020, and offsetting the declines in the two preceding months,” it said.

Seizing Opportunities

Many businesses had to adapt to changes as a result of the pandemic, and one company that did well was MedTech startup BookDoc. The six-year-old startup pivoted to help Malaysia cope with Covid-19 and at the same time diversified its business.

The company adapted its BookDoc app to become a booking platform that supported 500 government clinics and helped them manage queues and practice social distancing when Malaysia was going through its lockdowns.

Malaysia has gained an international reputation as a safe and trusted healthcare destination.

It also introduced innovative services such as “lab uberization”—conducting real-time PCR tests by going to people’s homes and offices instead of waiting for them to come into test centers. This helped BookDoc to diversify and weather the storm during the tough months.

As the economy continues to open up in 2021 and 2022, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), an agency under the Ministry of Health, will continue to move forward with greater industry resilience to enhance the health tourism sector.

There is great potential for Malaysia’s medical tourism market as it has grown from around US$130 million to nearly US$400 million, an average of 16% in annual growth, between 2011 and 2019.

MHTC continues to actively promote medical tourism as it believes Malaysia is not only a safe and trusted healthcare destination but also offers strong value propositions. These include hospital fees being regulated by the government, world-class medical facilities that are easily accessible with a short waiting time, and specialty fields ranging from fertility, cardiology and oncology to orthopedics, neurology and health screenings.

Capitalizing on Technology

Malaysia has always been quick to capitalize on the power of technology, and one company at the forefront of developing smart cities is Cyberview, which is currently building three technology clusters centered on Smart Mobility, Smart Healthcare and Digital Creative spread across four zones in Cyberjaya. The project is estimated to contribute US$60 billion to Malaysia’s GDP and potentially create 87,000 job opportunities by 2045.

An aerial view of Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s premier smart city, where plans are in place to transform it into a global technology hub.

Cyberview believes that it has all the ingredients, from infrastructure to talent and policies, to strengthen Cyberjaya’s position as a global technology hub. After all, the likes of China Mobile International, Dell, Ericsson, HTC Global, Huawei and Modality Systems have made Cyberjaya Malaysia’s premier technology investment destination for decades.

Another company capitalizing on technology is Silverlake Axis, which is taking on newer, nimbler, fast-growing financial technology (fintech) companies at their own game. The company has just won a major digitalization project from a bank in Thailand that involves transforming a traditional operating model for banks into a digital one without affecting its legacy infrastructure.

This will help the Thai bank embark on their digital transformation with peace of mind as Silverlake Axis has the expertise to understand how banks work and is suited to helping them to transform through their digital journey.

Recognized Globally

Internationalizing Malaysia as a brand is one of the key strategies in reviving Malaysia’s economic fortunes for 2022. This is why the Halal Development Corporation (HDC) and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation are co-hosting the Halal Cluster Week at Dubai’s World Expo in November in a quest to attract US$80 million in potential trade and investment.

HDC plans to take its initiatives global through the introduction of its new Muslim Friendly Guidelines, a set of standards and regulations for the halal industry covering the retail, tourism and medical sectors. It also plans to undertake a halal ecosystem assessment in 22 countries in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank. The study will help to identify key components of the halal industry in the countries involved, including best practices and gap analysis.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest glove maker, Top Glove, is setting its sights on going further by focusing on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

Top Glove realizes that it cannot just be good at producing gloves but also needs to be the best at producing these products in a sustainable way. With its emphasis on ESG, the company plans to reduce its carbon emissions and water consumption by 25% and 34%, respectively, by 2025, and reduce waste being sent to landfills by 10%. It has also committed to consulting experts on labor issues such as the worker recruitment process, employment terms, training and workplace safety, among others.

Looking Ahead

As Malaysia continues to look to the future, RHB Bank’s quarterly economic outlook report notes that a few key events are likely to support increase in consumption by the end of 2021 into early next year.

With working capacity increasing to 100% and business operating hours normalized as states recover, broader industries that were deemed non-essential and high-risk should gradually be reopened.

Coupled with the opening of international travel, which will support tourism-related segments, mobility should improve, which lends support to the labor market and private consumption recovery.

“Consumer spending is already well positioned to capitalize on the reopening of the economy. Household savings have significantly built up during the pandemic due to mobility restrictions, moratoriums and cash support. The increased savings are arguably involuntary, and mostly in liquid assets, which may likely be drawn upon when consumer confidence improves,” the report noted.

Philippine Economy Comes Back Stronger

The Philippines has always prevailed through major challenges, from natural disasters to political uncertainties. However, the lingering socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could strain the country’s much vaunted resilience now more than ever. Though still rocky, a path to recovery does lie ahead.

GDP growth significantly rebounded in the second quarter of 2021, surging 11.8% compared to the previous year, the highest growth in more than three decades. Among major sectors, manufacturing expanded by 22.3%, construction by 25.7%, and services by 9.6%. These figures have already brightened the economy’s full-year growth outlook despite some expected bumps due to the continuing spread of coronavirus variants. The government’s goal of vaccinating all adults—70% of the population—by the end of the year is crucial for the economy to sustain its growth trajectory. More than 42 million total vaccine doses have been administered so far.

Vaccine distribution may be uneven across the country, but in Metro Manila at least, the rollout seems to be proceeding briskly. The National Capital Region—which accounts for around 36% of the national economy—seems to be moving towards herd immunity. As of late September, almost 70% of the region’s target residents have been fully vaccinated, while almost 90% have already received their first dose.

The efforts of the private sector, such as global port management company International Container Terminal Services, Inc., have been instrumental in procuring and distributing the vaccines. SM Investments, the country’s largest conglomerate, provided free vaccines not only to its workforce, but also stakeholders and business partners, offering its properties as vaccination and testing hubs.

Prudent financial policies and vital reforms are expected to clear the way for further recovery, with growth expected to pick up by the last quarter of 2021 and into next year. With several high-impact infrastructure projects slated for completion in 2022, job opportunities are bound to expand and the country’s competitiveness will improve. These are also supporting the appreciation of real estate values in major cities, providing investors with unprecedented opportunities. Rebounding exports and remittances, and increased spending ahead of next year’s general elections, are also expected to boost domestic consumer demand.

The increasing adoption of digital technology and online transactions has greatly accelerated over the past year, boosting efficiency and the ease of doing business. Growth has now been more decentralized, with the government focusing on decongesting the capital and stepping up digitalization initiatives to sustain economic activity. Indicators point to a Philippines that will bounce back better, with more inclusive and sustainable growth, supported by robust infrastructure, and a resilient population that’s more digitally savvy.

Asia Accelerates Digitalization Amid Pandemic

With the Covid-19 outbreak wreaking havoc across industries and the global supply chain, governments and businesses around the world accelerated their digital transformation. Such initiatives have taken front seat in Asia—home to the world’s factories—with the region stepping up investments on technological innovations needed to power the new normal post the pandemic.

China—a regional leader in adopting cutting-edge artificial intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing technologies—seeks to speed up the roll out of laws on protecting personal information as data analytics becomes prevalent in the country’s pursuit of smart nation status. The new regulations are embodied in its 14th five-year plan, which runs from 2021 to 2025.

South Korea has pledged to invest US$94 million in 2021 to support the tech industry in AI and 5G networks as part of its “Digital New Deal” initiative. Japan’s Growth Strategy Council has drafted a plan calling for the stimulation of innovation that involves digital transformation and grooming a greener society.

Countries across southeast Asia have launched their respective digitalization initiatives after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted the “Asean Digital Masterplan 2025”—a roadmap for the group’s digital cooperation from 2021 to 2025—in January.

In Indonesia, the “Making Indonesia 4.0” roadmap is helping the country’s industrial sector create new business models using digital technologies. Singapore’s plan is embodied in its Digital Government Blueprint, which aims to better leverage data and harness new technologies. In Thailand, the government has introduced the “Thailand 4.0” economic model, which utilizes digitalization to enhance the quality of life in the country.

Malaysia’s MyDIGITAL, which was launched in February, aims to transform the country into a regional leader in the digital economy. Under the blueprint, the government aims to attract US$16.5 billion worth of digital investments to boost the contribution of digital products and services to the country’s GDP to 22.6% by 2025 from 19.1% currently.

Focus On Cyber Security

To coordinate and manage new digital investments, the Malaysian Digital Economy Corp. (MDEC) has teamed up with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority to set up the Digital Investment Office (DIO). Initiatives run by the DIO will be guided by MDEC’s “Digital Investments Future5” strategy.

A key initiative in Malaysia’s digital transformation strategy calls for the fortification of the country’s cyber security defences. This is important given the growing threat of ransomware attacks—where cyber criminals steal data, encrypt and hold the digital infrastructure hostage until organizations pay the ransom, according to U.S.-based FireEye Mandiant.

The security specialist warns that governments and businesses urgently need to take prompt and preventive action to safe-guard their critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. Organizations can no longer treat cyber security as an inconvenient byproduct of doing business but must be engineered from the ground up.

To do so effectively, organizations must conduct a comprehensive audit, identify the weak spots and work with experts who can implement automated solutions to deal with cyber security threats and breaches.

ASEAN Cooperation

Throughout its history, the ASEAN has been resilient against economic and geopolitical crisis that has affected member countries in the past and more so now that the group is battling the challenges of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic. To recover and thrive again, the region would need to strengthen their cooperation.

“The digital economy is critical,” Lim Jock Hoi, ASEAN secretary general, said at a webinar organized by the CIMB Asean Research Institute in July 2020. “As you know, the pandemic has forced a lot of people to use digital technology and it is very refreshing to see that every one of us has adapted. In future, the economic driver will very much be in this area. We are looking at how best to use this as part of our post-pandemic recovery plan.”

Thailand: Rising To The Challenge

The pandemic has impacted countries all over the world, and each nation has been faced with its own unique challenges across various sectors. In Thailand, the tourism industry, which usually represents approximately 20% of the country’s GDP, has been hit particularly hard.

Goods and services exports, another of the Thai economy’s cornerstones at about 60% of GDP in 2019, was also significantly affected initially. However, the sector has since recovered, spurred by the weakest baht level in three years, to achieve 43.8% year-on-year growth in 2021—the largest increase in 11 years, according to the Kasikorn Bank Research Center.

In terms of direct foreign investment, supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic have encouraged foreign investors to move from China-centric to more regionalized production, and Kasikorn expects inflows to Thailand to increase by 0.7% to 0.8% from 2021 to 2022.

Moreover, in July, the Asian Development Bank estimated that Thailand’s GDP will grow by 3% in 2021 and 4.5% in 2022, so the outlook is improving as the world begins to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Despite the headwinds of the past two years, some sectors and companies have continued to fulfil their growth ambitions, as this special supplement highlights.

The German digital security company cyan recently chose Thailand as their first step in entering the Asian market, forming a partnership with Thailand’s leading mobile network operator to provide cybersecurity for mobile users.

Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical, meanwhile, has pressed forward with its global expansion, acquiring Germany’s Allnex Holding in a landmark €4 billion (US$4.75 billion) deal that significantly expands the state-owned company’s international reach, as well as its production and product development capabilities.

After a period of global gloom, it seems that a new, and hopefully improved, normal is emerging. Mass vaccination is key to winning the battle against Covid-19, and Thailand is striving to achieve this despite some initial difficulties. As of late August, medical authorities in Thailand had administered more than 28 million doses of the vaccine, and as the supply increases dramatically in the last four months of 2021, the country should be able to reach its goal of vaccinating more than half of its population by the end of the year.

In fact, Thailand’s well developed sense of community served the country well in minimizing the impact of Covid-19 in the first year of the pandemic, bringing the infection rate down to less than 10 per day for more than three months in 2020. Despite the recent uptick in third wave infections, Thailand is ready and able to rise to the challenge, and to step forward confidently into post pandemic prosperity.

Japan 2021: Bouncing Back

Last year should have been a banner year for Japan, with the Tokyo Olympic Games set to follow the country’s successful hosting of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup and the enthronement of its new emperor in 2019. While the pandemic did force the postponement of the prestigious sporting competition amid a slumping global economy, Japan is poised to make up for lost time in 2021.

Japan’s GDP returned to growth in the third quarter last year as foreign demand for Japanese goods fueled a trade surplus. This rebound, which represents the fastest pace of growth in more than 50 years, is expected to continue; in October, the IMF predicted Japan’s economy will expand by 2.3% this year.

Overcoming adversity to achieve success is nothing new for Japanese industry, and leading companies such as Canon, Kikkoman Corporation and Mobile Internet Capital (MIC) have once again displayed their ability to adapt and innovate during periods of volatility.

Canon Chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai, who has led the company since 1995, is helping the company weather short-term uncertainty by focusing on strategies for positive transformation and long-term growth. While the pandemic posed challenges for Canon’s businesses—technicians have had to quarantine for weeks when travelling overseas, for example—Mitarai has kept the firm’s historic evolution into a strategically diversified imaging solutions provider on course.

While growing its traditional camera and printer businesses, Mitarai has also significantly expanded Canon’s medical and industrial equipment arms. The company is also innovating in sectors such as diagnostic imaging equipment and nanoimprint lithography, and plans to invest heavily in OLED display manufacturing equipment for smartphones and TVs.

Yuzaburo Mogi, Honorary CEO and Chairman of the Board of Kikkoman, is another corporate leader adept at adapting to changing conditions. Since he made the then-revolutionary decision to build a factory for the soy sauce maker in the U.S. in the 1970s, he has embraced innovative thinking to ensure Kikkoman’s continuing success.

Resolute in his belief that the most resilient firms are those that learn from experience to become stronger and smarter, Mogi sees the current environment as a time for strong leadership to leverage the company’s collective wisdom to achieve the best results.

As Japan’s first technology-focused venture capital firm, MIC has built its impressive reputation on looking to the future, and the company is helping drive the transformation of society by investing more than US$240 million in promising startups. Kan Ebisawa, President and CEO of MIC, is confident that technology will not only foster economic growth, but also provide a bridge between Japan and the rest of the globe.

As the world attempts to adapt to the new normal, companies—and leaders—such as these are well placed to face challenges head on and drive Japan’s future success.

Indonesia: Positioned For Recovery

In the face of a once-in-a-generation crisis, Indonesia is proactively taking steps to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on its people and economy.

Among other steps, the government has rolled out a series of measures to support hard-hit businesses and industries. These include 35.3 trillion rupiah (US$2.26 billion) in new tax incentives for 18 sectors such as tourism, food and beverage, and healthcare. The authorities have also expanded social assistance programs for low-income citizens across the country to help them meet their basic needs and maintain their purchasing power.

Meanwhile, the recently approved Omnibus Law on Job Creation is expected to make it easier to do business in Indonesia by cutting red tape, easing restrictions on foreign investment and providing more incentives to free-trade zones. According to Fitch Ratings, the new law should significantly enhance the business climate and improve the country’s international competitiveness over time if the changes are fully realized.

In particular, the reforms will help Indonesia capitalize on shifts in global manufacturing supply chains. Many multinationals are looking to diversify their supply chains in response to uncertainties created by ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions. Some have relocated operations to Indonesia in recent years, and the new measures introduced by the government are aimed at accelerating this trend.

“We believe that the law will bolster Indonesia’s long-term economic growth prospects. All else being equal, faster growth would have a positive effect on the sovereign’s public debt metrics, boosting fiscal inflows and reducing debt-to-GDP ratios,” said Fitch in its October report.

“Perhaps more importantly, the potential boost in Indonesia’s manufacturing exports and FDI inflows could make the country less dependent on commodity exports and on portfolio flows to finance its current-account deficit.”

State-owned enterprises such as Pertamina continue to play their part in supporting economic growth. The energy giant has a key role in developing Indonesia’s energy security and self-sufficiency. According to Nicke Widyawati, President Director and CEO of Pertamina, the company not only seeks profit, but also to serve as an engine of economic expansion and a driving force for the growth of the country’s small and midsized businesses. 

On the manufacturing front, Indonesian corporates such as apparel maker Pan Brothers continue to keep their production lines running to meet global demand. The company’s targeted production capacity in 2021 is 130 million garment pieces annually.

Over the longer term, Indonesia’s plans to focus on infrastructure—including new airports, power plants and transportation projects—and the booming digital economy will help fuel the country’s growth in the post-crisis period and lead to new opportunities for businesses and investors.

Malaysia: Pushing Ahead

In its latest report on Malaysia’s economy, the central bank noted GDP improved significantly, marking a smaller contraction of 2.7% in the third quarter compared with the 17.1% dip the previous quarter. The government expects the rebound will continue, projecting the economy will grow up to 7.5% next year.

According to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), production and trade picked up over July to September, combined with a rise in private consumption, while unemployment fell over the same period. Meanwhile, stimulus packages unveiled by the government to ease the economic fallout from Covid-19 are expected to contribute over four percentage points to the nation’s GDP growth.

Malaysia has moved quickly to accelerate digital adoption by businesses, education and society. This will help the nation’s industries, from manufacturing, healthcare, electrical and electronics to e-commerce, support the country’s recovery.

Amid a global call for more medical protective gear, which increases competition in the market, Top Glove, the world’s largest rubber glove maker, believes it can stay ahead of the game. Not content to rest on its laurels, Top Glove’s goal is to continue to dominate global market share—solidifying its No. 1 status in the rubber glove industry—and become one of the world’s top 500 companies by 2035.

Silverlake Group is another homegrown company that intends to push ahead with expansion plans. Its revenue rose to US$161 million in the year ended in June, with a compound annual growth rate of 8% since 2011.

Math is the basis for its latest cloud computing solutions as the company helps its customers detect, manage and combat fraud in the banking, finance and insurance industries. Silverlake Group is poised for further growth in 2021 on the back of its partnership with an institutional investor.

Going regional is also on the cards for BookDoc. The five-year-old medtech startup is ramping up its business to expand its footprint by complementing its patient-doctor booking system and healthmetrics monitoring system with chat-based medical teleconsultations.

The company has tied up with China’s WeDoctor, a global healthcare platform that boasts 700 million users. BookDoc uses WeDoctor’s AI technology to screen calls and offer teleconsultation services to patients in its ecosystem seeking advice for a range of medical concerns, including Covid-19.

Moving forward, the central bank believes the economy will improve in tandem with stronger global demand and domestic policy support that includes government-targeted wage subsidies, public projects and low interest rates. It also anticipates the economic impact of Covid-19 containment measures reintroduced in October will be less severe compared with earlier restrictions as businesses have been allowed to continue to operate.

Noting that Malaysia’s economic fundamentals are still strong and its economic base is sufficiently diversified to weather the storm, the MoF says it will continue to closely work with the private sector and the public to foster sustainable growth in 2021.

A Historic Year for G20

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is busy working toward its mission to diversify its economy as part of its Vision 2030. Tourism plays a major role in its development plans. As an example of one of many projects, in November, Saudi’s Ministry of Culture announced an initiative to establish a world-class center dedicated to the management, restoration and protection of underwater cultural heritage in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The center will be affiliated with the Ministry’s Heritage Commission and will be responsible for developing the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Saudi is also seeking to play a main role in strengthening the global economy. In November, Saudi hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit for the first time in its history, chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit, which was kicked off in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, occurred this year amid exceptional circumstances as world leaders urged solidarity against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. G20 economies are expected to contract by about 4% to reach US$65.8 trillion in 2020, down from US$68.6 trillion a year ago. Members of the group represent around 80% of the world’s economic output, which is projected to be worth US$83.8 trillion in 2020, two-thirds of the global population, and 75% of international trade. They represent the voices of 4.6 billion people around the world.

The pandemic crisis, healthcare plans and the recovery of the global economy were at the top of the G20 agenda this year. Saudi hosted an exceptional virtual meeting to discuss the Covid-19 outbreak. “At this critical time, with the world facing the coronavirus pandemic, which affects humans, health systems and the global economy, we meet with the G20 in an exceptional summit; to come up with initiatives that fulfill the hopes of our people, strengthen the role of our governments, and unite our efforts to confront this pandemic,” said His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Twitter in March.

The G20 meetings also touched on enhancing trading ties. “In these challenging times, the need for an open, fair and rules-based multilateral trading system is critical to support global economic recovery,” said Majid bin Abdullah Al Qassabi, Minister of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at an earlier virtual G20 trade and investment ministerial meeting.

So far G20 countries have contributed over US$21 billion to support the production, distribution and access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; injected over US$11 trillion into safeguarding the global economy; and launched a debt suspension initiative for the least developed countries that allowed beneficiary countries to defer US$14 billion in debt payments due this year and use the funds instead for financing their health systems and social programs. As 2020 comes to a close, the world will be watching and waiting to see what further help is coming.

In this report exploring the future of Saudi Arabia, some of its key influential business leaders share their insights on the impact of Vision 2030 and Saudi’s ambitious plans.

www.forbesmiddleeast.com | info@forbesmiddleeast.com

The Philippines: Revving Up For Recovery

Skyline of Bonifacio Global City

The Philippine central bank governor, Benjamin Diokno, in a recent speech affirmed that the country’s economy remains robust, characterized by strong fundamentals that include low interest rates, a strong currency, record gross international reserves, low debt ratios, stable inflation and improving employment figures.

Public infrastructure projects, agriculture and high technology are driving the economic recovery. Among the services sector, domestic tourism is poised for a rebound, led by the Department of Tourism’s efforts to ensure the careful reopening of top local destinations. “We hope that this will soon make way for greater inter-regional travel,” says Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo- Puyat. “But visitors from all over the Philippines can now enjoy some of the world’s best islands at their safest and most tranquil.”

A diverse range of industries, from food manufacturing to financial services, continue to stay buoyant. The business process outsourcing sector (BPO) also remains optimistic, with increased demand for outsourced health-related services encouraging some BPO companies to expand. The pandemic has prompted greater work flexibility in the sector, with almost 70% of its labor force now working from home, according to the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines. This means multi-use developments, such as those offered by Alveo Land, remain attractive for both tenants and investors. “Our projects offer dynamic configurations that balance residential, lifestyle options and workspaces,” explains Alveo Land President Robert Lao. “They can easily adapt to the demands of the new normal, where convenience and innovation are key.”

With crises also come opportunities, as seen in the dramatic rise in digital banking during the quarantine period. Increased financial digitalization has enabled greater access to financial services and quicker capital turnaround, thus accelerating income growth. By strengthening their e-commerce operations, companies such as SM Investments Corporation are evolving with the circumstances while positioning themselves for a post-recovery future. “Even across different platforms, we’ve managed to keep our brand front and center,” says SM President and CEO Frederic DyBuncio. “This assures our customers that they can count on us, whatever the situation.”

The Philippine central bank expects GDP to bounce back and grow by 6.5% to 7.5% in 2021 and 2022. The Asian Development Bank also expects growth to accelerate in 2021 with effective fiscal support and monetary policies keeping the economy on track. JPMorgan Chase is even more bullish on the country. In August, it increased its 2021 growth forecast to 9.5%, which would be among the strongest in the region.

Southeast Asia may have seen a decrease in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first half of this year, but the Philippines managed to buck this trend. The central bank reported FDI net inflows increased for the fourth consecutive month in August, expanding 47% from a year earlier, while net equity capital investments rose by 33%. This show of confidence by investors demonstrates the country’s sound financial management, effective pandemic control efforts and unshakeable resilience.

Singapore: Staying The Course

More than six months after the Covid-19 virus first emerged, the global economy continues to feel the effects of this unprecedented healthcare crisis. Countries that had appeared to have the pandemic under control are now facing second and third waves of infections. Meanwhile, businesses continue to suffer heavy losses due to safe distancing and travel restrictions.

Singapore has not been spared the fallout, and its ability to navigate difficult conditions is once again on show during this difficult period. The government has rolled out a series of five budget packages worth about S$100 billion (US$73 billion) to support businesses and workers who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Besides cushioning the economy from the near-term shocks, policymakers have kept their eyes firmly on the horizon as they persevere with the country’s longer-term transformation. Whether it’s supporting local companies in their efforts to restructure their operations for the digital era, to spread their wings abroad, or to upgrade their workers’ skills, Singapore is once again positioning itself for success in the long run.

Nimble Response

Covid-19 has also highlighted the need for businesses to react quickly to a fast-changing landscape. With consumer needs shifting rapidly due to the pandemic, companies will need to leverage innovation to develop offerings that are relevant to their customers.

Painting solutions specialist Nippon Paint, for instance, is ramping up its investments in research and development during this time to deliver valuable customer-centric solutions. One key initiative in this effort involves the development of painting products that inhibit the growth of viruses on surfaces.

Nippon Paint is supporting communities that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic in other ways—from cash injections to donations of antiviral coatings to hospitals. In China, for instance, the company has donated 2 million yuan (US$290,000) to the Red Cross in Xianning city, Hubei province.

There are others who see interest in their company-led solutions amid the crisis. For example, in the insurance sector, Covid-19 has prompted consumers to review their need for financial protection. According to Swiss Re’s Covid-19 Consumer Survey, more than a quarter of the 6,000 respondents surveyed across 10 markets in Asia-Pacific are worried about how they will come out of the pandemic financially, and many are prioritizing insurance as a “must have” during this time.

Long-Term Focus

Furthermore, the pandemic is threatening efforts of business leaders to deal with longer-term issues such as climate risk. Global property insurance leader FM Global notes that Covid-19 has the potential to compound the impact of natural catastrophes due to restrictions on movement and essential services.

A survey conducted by the firm before the pandemic found at least 34% of Asia-Pacific executives thought their organization is significantly exposed to climate risk, while 57% of Asia-Pacific respondents said addressing climate risk was a high priority in their company.

The Singapore government has shown its commitment to climate action, even as it deals with more immediate problems. In February, it announced measures in its annual budget to promote sustainable living and to support the use of electric vehicles.

This persistent focus on the long term has helped Singapore overcome uncertainties time and again since its independence 55 years ago, and positioned the country to emerge stronger after each crisis.