Thermal scanners at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia.
Nicolas Asfuri | AFP | Getty Images
Political uncertainty in some Southeast Asian countries is coming to the fore again, which could threaten their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, an expert said on Friday.
Some of that uncertainty took a backseat when authorities around the region imposed blockades of varying degrees to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As these measures are phased out and domestic policy resumes, the stability of some governments is in doubt once again, said Simon Tay, chairman of the think tank Institute of the International Affairs.
“There is a concern that without political will and unity, some countries will get worse. It is not a health concern, this is really economic, governance and cetera,”; he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia.
Tay, who is also a law professor at the National University of Singapore, cited Malaysia as an example of a country where politics could hinder its recovery. The country underwent a change of government shortly before embarking on a stalemate in March – following defenses from the former ruling coalition that resulted in its collapse.
But the stability and legitimacy of the new government has been called into question, with some media reporting that an early election could soon be called for the current ruling coalition to seek a new term.
“There are many different policies on small issues, but that adds up to a big question mark about political stability and the political attention to deal with economic and other issues,” Tay said.
“And Thailand in the neighboring country – the big economy for our region – they have the same problem: the economic team is gone, another is being introduced. But the contraction of the economy is very real, now,” he added.
Several Thai ministers resigned last month, including the country’s top economic architects. The new ministers are said to have been appointed but the change has come at a time when the tourism-dependent Thai economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought global travel to a halt.
Malaysia and Thailand are among the Southeast Asian countries that have reported a slowdown in new daily Covid-19 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Covid-19 is the official name of the coronavirus disease.
However, some economists warned that most countries in the region would still find it challenging to grow their economies given the global uncertainties – despite their success in controlling the explosion.
Earlier this week, Nomura Asean chief economist Euben Paracuelles said the region could experience a “U-shaped” recovery at best. A U-shaped recovery means that an economy spends a longer time at the end of a recession before it gradually recedes.