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  • Writer's pictureYoung SEAkers HELLO!!

03.07.20 - 09.07.20 Sup SEAkers!

Diners wait for their orders at a food court where only one customer per table is allowed, as the Philippine government allows dining-in following months of restrictions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines, June 16, 2020..

This Week's News Spotlight:

COVID-19 pandemic pushes up Brunei's inflation rate | Japanese Business Association of Cambodia (JBAC) believes Cambodia remains a very safe destination for investments and tourism | Indonesia's Bali to welcome international tourists in September | Maruhan Japan Bank Lao and Loca Laos Ink E-Commerce Deal | Malaysia's biggest COVID-19 cluster ends after four months | Myanmar army sacks officers over landslide tragedy | Duterte says the Philippines can't fully reopen its economy yet | Singapore's hotels can apply to reopen for staycation bookings | Thailand's economy facing bleakest prediction in Asia | Job losses on the way as Vietnam's firms look to downsize


COVID-19 pandemic pushes up Brunei's inflation rate

A vendor sells fruits and vegetables at Tamu Aneka Temburong. Prices of goods and services are expected to rise in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers are expected to pay more for goods and services for the rest of the year as the COVID-19 pandemic will drive up Brunei’s inflation, according to Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) projections.

In its bi-annual policy statement for the first half of 2020, the central bank has revised its inflation forecast of one to two percent for 2020. The upward trend in the prices of items in the consumer price index (CPI) basket is larger than expected and is likely to continue for the rest of 2020, the central bank added. The rise in CPI was largely attributed to price hikes in miscellaneous goods and services, household equipment as well as food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: To put things in context, Brunei recorded a deflation of -0.4% last year. However, the increase in inflation is understandable because of the COVID pandemic which has resulted in basic goods such as food to increase in prices globally. Brunei is rather reliant on imports; hence the CPI will increase accordingly. A 2% inflation rate is very manageable and should not be a cause of concern

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Japanese Business Association of Cambodia (JBAC) believes Cambodiaremains a very safe destination for investments and tourism

The JBAC delegation president, Mr Kandaa Yogo (3rd from left with) with Minister Thong Khon. AKP

The Japanese Business Association of Cambodia (JBAC) with 270 member companies is looking to increase investment in tourism sector in Cambodia as they believe that Cambodia remains a very safe investment and tourism destination.

This was said in a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and a delegation of Japanese investors led by Mr. Kanda Yogo, President of JBAC and General Manager of Mitsubishi Corporation, here at the ministry on July 7.

On the occasion, Dr Khon briefed his guests on the recent developments of Cambodia’s tourism during this COVID-19 crisis and on the growing domestic tourism movements as well as the implementation of safety tourism measures at key business bases such as resorts and tourism communities, land and water tourism transport, homestays, and restaurants and canteens.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: In the meantime, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a regional bank led by the Japanese has also approved a $250 million loan to help Cambodia respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the country’s health care system, increasing social assistance to the poor and vulnerable, and providing economic stimulus to businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises.

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Indonesia's Bali to welcome international tourists in September

Tourists visit Melasti Beach in Badung regency, Bali, on June 24.

The Bali provincial administration is preparing to welcome foreign visitors in September following months of international travel restrictions because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster has announced a three-step plan to reopen activity in compliance with “new normal” policies. The approach entails reopening the region’s popular tourist destinations to international visitors on Sept. 11. Local tourists will be able to visit the island’s famous vacation spots starting on Jul. 9, Koster said.

Tourism in Bali has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of foreign tourist arrivals fell to nearly zero in the weeks following the first reported coronavirus cases in the country.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: We wonder if international tourists will start coming back to Bali, Bali definitely needs to reopen its attractions to foreign tourists if it hopes to tide through 2020 amidst the pandemic. Let’s hope that the international tourists are convinced that it is safe enough for them to visit Bali again!

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Maruhan Japan Bank Lao and LocaLaos Ink E-Commerce Deal

Maruhan Japan Bank and Loca Laos celebrate the signing of their agreement

Japanese commercial bank Maruhan Japan Bank Lao and local ride-hailing service Loca Laos have inked a deal on an e-commerce automated settlement solution to be provided by the Japanese bank.

The agreement marks the launch of Maruhan’s unique e-commerce Automated Settlement System (e-CASS), which has been specially designed to assist the bank’s customers and the SME community at large by providing an e-settlement on-demand solution.

LOCA Laos will be the first company to make use of the e-CASS system, which will enable the convenience of auto-settlement between LOCA and its network of over 400 drivers. Thanks to the speed and convenience of the system, drivers will be able to receive payment any time, anywhere, and faster and more conveniently than ever before.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: We previously covered Loca under our SEAwave-makers series. This collaboration is a large step forward in building Laos’s e-commerce ecosystem! We look forward to future developments.

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Malaysia's biggest COVID-19 clusterends after four months

Malaysia's Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Malaysia’s biggest Covid-19 cluster that originated from the Seri Petaling Mosque tabligh gathering has recorded zero cases and, thus, declared to have ended on Wednesday (July 8), says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic).

He said the cluster was detected following a religious gathering at the mosque, which was held from Feb 27 to March 3, and which was attended by 16,000 participants comprising 14,500 Malaysians and 1,500 foreigners from various countries.

"The first Covid-19 positive cases from this cluster in the country were reported on March 11 (a week after the gathering ended), which were cases 131 and 136 involving Malaysians from Pahang and Negeri Sembilan who attended the gathering,” he said at a Covid-19 news conference here.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: We are very relieved as well, we recalled back in March when the outbreak first began, we were extremely worried because of the potential scale of the outbreak as some of the participants were from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. It took 4 months before closing this cluster, let this be a timely reminder that prevention is better than cure, let us not lapse in our prevention measures even though the number of new cases are gradually falling!

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Myanmar Election day set on November 8

Soldiers and volunteers sail at the scene of the landslide accident at a jade mining site as they continue search for the victims in Hpakant, Kachin State, northern Myanmar on 04 July 2020.

Two high-ranking officers were fired for having "failed their responsibilities" after a landslide in Myanmar killed at least 174 jade miners, the country's military said on Monday in a rare public sanctioning.

Heavy monsoon rains on Thursday sent mud cascading down a hillside over workers scouring the land for the green gemstone in Hpakant in northern Kachin state. The victims were largely poor migrants who had travelled across the country to prospect in the treacherous open-cast mines, hoping to find valuable stones left behind by the big companies.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: Our heart goes out to all those who lost their lives in this tragedy as well as to their family members, Rest in Peace.

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Duterte says Philippines can't fully reopen its economy yet

President Rodrigo Duterte updates the people on the status of the government’s campaign against Covid-19 in a speech after midnight on July 8, 2020.

The government will not totally open the economy to prevent a spike of coronavirus cases, President Rodrigo Duterte said. In a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 early Wednesday, the President said the country could not afford to treat a sudden rise in virus cases.

The President said he could not follow other countries that eased their lockdown rules despite the pandemic. He noted that countries like Japan, South Korea, China and the United States had suffered almost a “relapse” when they encountered another wave of infections.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: He has a hard job, even without opening the economy and keeping parts of the nation in lockdown, Philippines has registered the highest single-day count of 2,539 cases. If he proceeds to re-open the economy, the number of new cases will likely explode to newer highs.

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Singapore's hotels can apply to reopen for staycation bookings

People walk past the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore.

Hotels in Singapore may now apply to reopen for staycation bookings, as Singapore resumes more activities under Phase 2 of its post-“circuit breaker” reopening.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced this in an advisory on Friday (Jul 3), saying that hotels will have to comply with various safe management measures to do so.

Hotels may also apply to reopen recreation areas for children, it added. The resumption of these two services also applies to hotels being used as stay-home notice, quarantine and isolation facilities, says STB, although they will be subject to even more stringent measures.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: This is unlikely to boost the hotels’ business significantly, but then again, a little is a better than nothing at this point of time. Keeping the business afloat is the key priority!

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Thailand's economy facing bleaskest prediction in Asia

Empty chairs are seen on a beach which is usually full of tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket, Thailand on March 11, 2020.

Thailand has been cited as a success story in containing the coronavirus outbreak, having gone more than 40 days without any local transmission of Covid-19. Yet its economic outlook is the darkest in Asia.

Gross domestic product is forecast to contract 8.1% this year, according to the Bank of Thailand. That’s worse than official forecasts for any of the main economies across Asia, and would be the country’s biggest GDP decline ever, surpassing even its plunge during the Asian financial crisis two decades ago.

“Thailand has large exposure as a tourism hub, close to 15% of GDP, and it also has large exposure of the export-oriented sector,” said Kiatipong Ariyapruchya, senior economist for Thailand at the World Bank. “Hence the large shock to GDP.”

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: Thailand is hit by the double whammy of limited or no foreign tourists and the strengthening of the Thai Baht has increased the cost of Thailand’s exports. Efforts to spur domestic tourism will not fill the gaping hole left by the contributions from foreign tourists, which made up 20% of the economy last year.

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Job losses on the way as Vietnam's firms look to downsize

Many businesses are planning to reduce labour as of COVID-19.

Many businesses are planning to reduce the number of employees on their payroll in the next few months. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been controlled in Vietnam, its long-term effects will continue to be felt. Many businesses are planning to decrease their workforce by 60-70 per cent.

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) are consulting businesses and workers for a plan of support. The confederation reported that 5,600 enterprises and more than 1,300 non-public non-business units had to be dissolved, stopped working or narrowed production, which affected jobs of more than 461,000 workers by the end of April.

The Department of Employment under MOLISA said that if the pandemic is controlled well, it is estimated at least 70,000 to 80,000 workers would lose their jobs, 3 to 3.5 million workers would have to stop working and about 70-75 per cent of businesses would be affected.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: Perhaps Vietnam can explore ways to retrain these affected workers for better opportunities abroad when the COVID situation stabilises in other countries within ASEAN

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