Of all the colonial legacies left by Britain, France and the Netherlands in Asia, one of the least talked-about – yet arguably one of the most lasting and problematic – is the patchwork of legal systems that divides the region.
Doing business in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is gradually getting easier thanks to the elimination of tariff barriers, expansion of supply chains and gradual harmonisation of customs procedures.
Yet one of the big “soft” barriers to greater Asean integration, and one which makes life hard for multinationals and ambitious local companies alike, are the differing jurisdictions across the 10-member bloc.
Chronic congestion at the Philippines’ biggest port is forcing Maersk Line, the world’s biggest container shipper, to treble the frequency of container services that it diverts to an alternative port 130km away to keep goods flowing in and out of the country.
The snarl up highlights the infrastructure bottlenecks that are threatening the Southeast Asian country’s ability to maintain the rapid growth of recent years.
While creaking infrastructure has long been a problem in the Philippines, it is being exposed as a serious constraint amid a flood of foreign investment in the country, which has helped turn it into a star performer in Asia.
“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”, US Army officer and Vietnam veteran Creighton Abrams once said.
In his new book, The Rise of the New East, Ben Simpfendorfer does just that. His elephant is “The East”, the group of almost 50 emerging markets ranging from Turkey to China that is home to well over half of the world population.
Simpfendorfer gives his topic a thorough treatment. While his insights seem logical and intuitive, taken together they give an impressive oversight of into key trends shaping the region. beyondbrics noted five insights that particularly stood out.
It is a truth almost universally recognised that internet penetration in the 10-member bloc known as Asean – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – is low, even though the region is humming economically.
Or is it?
UBS has come out with some interesting research that will give the e-commerce crowd something to cheer. The bank finds that Asean has a 32 per cent “internet penetration rate”, or almost 200m users, out of a total population of 620m.
This contrasts with market data apparently widely accepted – and cited by UBS – saying that penetration could be as low as 62m users.
If you are doing business in Asean – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – be prepared for an electric shock.
Analysts at ANZ have looked at what’s happening with electricity prices across the region and are warning that they are set to rise, making it considerably more expensive to run factories. It will also add half a basis point on average to inflation, which is already inching up.
Nomura has released its Global Annual Economic Outlook for 2014, and its prognosis for Asia is interesting.
The investment bank states that the region’s economic leaders for the coming year will be: Korea, Malaysia and (despite a devastating typhoon) the Philippines.
While the world’s media has focused its attention on Tacloban, the biggest city affected by Typhoon Haiyan, other places on the island of Samar have been badly hit. Basey is one such town. Just across the bay from Tacloban, it has received very little in the way of aid or assistance from the government in spite of extensive damage. Tom Griggs reports.
It’s hard to imagine the scale of destruction following the typhoon that hit the Philippines on Friday, killing an estimated 10,000 people and leaving a trail of devastation.
However, despite Haiyan being one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, the impact on the Philippines economy may be relatively slight, and the reconstruction effort may even boost GDP. While that is hardly a comfort to people without homes or in mourning, an economic slump would be a double whammy better avoided.
Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand are on the face of it a relatively homogeneous, integrated group of nations with similar trading partners. So why did the first two emerge from the 2008 financial crisis in a much better shape than the latter?
A working paper from the IMF concludes that it was because Indonesia and the Philippines were less open to trade and had greater fiscal stimuli.
Out of 60 countries, Indonesia and the Philippines are home to the most optimistic consumers. Thailand comes fourth on the consumer confidence index compiled by Nielsen, a research company.
Yet ask these consumers how they will spend their cash, and they tell Nielsen they’d prefer to save it, actually.
Christmas has come a few months early for families in the Philippines getting remittances from relatives living and working overseas.
Money sent home rose 7.4 per cent to $2.1bn in August from the same period a year ago, according to data released by the central bank on Wednesday. Last year, remittances reached that amount only in December, when transfers hit their annual peak because of holiday spending.
There was plenty of thinly-veiled gloom in the World Bank’s semi-annual update on the economies of East Asia. It expects the region to growth at 7.1 per cent this year, down from its projection of 7.8 per cent six months ago. Most of that is down to falling growth in China, though all the countries covered are experiencing problems of some sort.
All except one, that is: the Philippines.
Philippine electronics exports, which account for almost half the country’s overseas sales, surged by a surprising 11.2 per cent from a year ago in July to $1.9bn, in what could be the start of a rebound from a plunge of almost a fifth in the first half of the year.
By Leif Lybecker Eskesen of HSBC Global Research
Japan’s economy has struggled for decades, weighed down by the debt hangover from the era of burst bubbles and other structural impediments. However, this may change if “Abenomics” delivers on its promises, which in turn has major trade and investment implications for the Asean-5 countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.