Vietnam’s Pivot to The West More a Shuffle Towards The Centre

Signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Atlanta last October and the high-level state visits of half the politburo to the United States put Vietnam in the international spotlight and, when the dust had settled, left the Southeast Asian diplomatic status quo profoundly shaken. Did this represent a decisive pivot to the West by […]

Don’t Bank on Vietnam Banking Sector Reform

Don’t Bank on Vietnam Banking Sector Reform

In architecture, there is a dictum that ‘form follows function’. The architect decides what a building is being used for and then designs the building for those purposes. However, in Vietnam’s process of economic reforms, the reverse is often the case — ‘function follows form’. Structures are put in place and then it is hoped […]

Conservative Jokowi No Reformer

Conservative Jokowi No Reformer

In his first year in office, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) failed to deliver on his promises of reform. As former New York governor Mario Cuomo nicely put it: ‘We campaign in poetry, but when we’re elected we’re forced to govern in prose’. Yet, six months on, things may be picking up for Jokowi. It […]

‘Presidential Curse’ Could Tarnish Aquino’s legacy

‘Presidential Curse’ Could Tarnish Aquino’s legacy

President Benigno Aquino III completes his six-year term much less popular than when he began it. His approval rating has dropped from a high of 79 per cent at the beginning of his term to 54 per cent as of September 2015. So what explains his falling popularity? Under Mr Aquino the Philippines has maintained […]

Can Jokowi Move Indonesia Beyond Protectionism?

Can Jokowi Move Indonesia Beyond Protectionism?

Put in a comparative historical perspective Indonesia’s economic growth performance has been relatively strong. Yet the recent slowdown in growth is a cause for concern. According to official figures the Indonesian economy grew by only  4.73 per cent in 2015, missing its 2015 GDP forecast of 5.7 per cent. This year Indonesian gross domestic product […]

Singapore’s Future After Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore’s Future After Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore’s ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), enters 2016 enjoying the comfort of a magnificent electoral victory in the 2015 Singapore general elections. In that election — the first since the death of patriarch Lee Kuan Yew — the PAP won almost 70 per cent of the popular vote. It was not the ruling […]

What The Asean Economic Community (AEC) Means For Laos

What The Asean Economic Community (AEC) Means For Laos

The Asean Economic Community (AEC) presents new opportunities for Laos PDR, but it also underlines significant challenges. Laos has long been a country of promise given its resources and geographic proximity to China and other Asean members. Yet, despite relatively high growth over the last two decades, the country remains among the world’s poorest nations. […]

Malaysia’s year as Asean chair reviewed

Malaysia’s year as Asean chair reviewed

Malaysia ended its chairmanship of Asean as the grouping announced the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in November 2015. The AEC intends to create a single market across the Asean region by standardising economic regulations including those on trade, flows of financial capital and labour migration. (See: 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration Formalises Asean Community […]

What Will Happen When Thailand’s King Bhumibol is Gone?

What Will Happen When Thailand’s King Bhumibol is Gone?

Back in February 2005, Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) was re-elected with a bumper majority. But as Thaksin consolidated ever more power his opponents became anxious. The Democrat Party worried that it would never again control the levers of government as the outspoken telco billionaire effectively monopolised the political process. His influence on military […]

Asean Urbanisation And The AEC

Asean Urbanisation And The AEC

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) takes steps toward implementing the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015, they should be cognisant that the paths towards economic integration and sustainable Asean urbanisation are closely intertwined. Southeast Asian cities will play a critical role in the unfolding of the AEC. Asean represents […]

Can Najib & BN Survive The 2018 Malaysia General Election?

Can Najib & BN Survive The 2018 Malaysia General Election?

These are tiring times for Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mr Razak has so far managed to stay in power despite the flurry of attacks on his leadership. Political debacles have almost cost Najib his prime ministership and the popularity of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN). Facing the prospect of losing the people’s mandate […]

Roadmap for a smoke-haze-free Asean

Roadmap for a smoke-haze-free Asean

The smoke-haze crisis that battered a major part of southern Asean in mid-2015 is showing signs of abating. Along with the disappearing haze, it is crucial that the resolve demonstrated by all parties — especially governments — to solve the issue doesn’t vanish as well. Promises and commitments have been made. Indonesia’s president has asked […]