The Coming Impact Of Coronavirus Contraction In ASEAN

Apr. 21, 2020 6:38 AM ETVNM, EWS, EWM, THD, EPHE, EIDO, IDX, EEMA, ASEA, IF, FNI, GMF1 Comment
Dan Steinbock profile picture
Dan Steinbock


  • After the COVID-19 earthquake and a historical contraction, China is rebounding.
  • Advanced economies face a depression-like plunge.
  • The consequent tsunami is about to hit Southeast Asia.

After the COVID-19 earthquake and a historical contraction, China is rebounding, whereas advanced economies face a depression-like plunge. The consequent tsunami is about to hit Southeast Asia.

As the total number of confirmed cases may exceed 3 million and deaths will surpass 200,000 in a matter of days, the U.S. and Europe account for more than 80% % of both. What was an epidemic in China at the turn of January and February grew into a pandemic in the 1st quarter, thanks to the belated mobilizations in Europe and the US.

As I predicted in a mid-March briefing (TMT, March 23), what is about to follow is the great coronavirus contraction. Its economic impact will be comparable to the 1930s Great Depression. With more data available today, we have a better idea what's about to happen, despite extraordinary uncertainty.

No country in Southeast Asia will be immune to the impact.

COVID-19 impact on Southeast Asia

In the coming months, emerging and developing economies will seek to cope with the coming economic tsunami. With weaker healthcare systems, the poorest economies, particularly oil and commodity exporters, will take the heaviest hit.

In January, the confirmed cases in the emerging ASEAN economies varied from presumably none in Indonesia to more than 30 in Thailand.

After the 1st quarter, most saw the cases increase by 10, 100, even 1,000 times. And by mid-April, the largest case counts are in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia (5,100-5,700), Thailand and Vietnam (Figure 1).

Figure 1Cumulative confirmed cases in ASEAN-5

Source: WHO data, Difference Group

Size matters. The bigger the country, the greater the potential for broad COVID-19 spread. However, aggregate figures must also be seen relative to the population size (total cases/1m pop). In this view, the COVID-19 impact has been hardest in Malaysia (164), followed by the Philippines, Thailand (40-60), Indonesia and Vietnam (3-23).

This article was written by

Dan Steinbock profile picture
Dr Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized expert of the multipolar world. He focuses on international business, international relations, investment and risk among the major advanced economies (G7) and large emerging economies (BRICS and beyond). He has consulted for international organizations, government agencies, financial institutions, multinational corporations and SMEs, competitiveness institutes and NGOs. His multipolar advisory and consulting activities include strategic services, policy briefs and guidance, risk management, scenario analysis, economic briefings, competitiveness and innovation analysis, trade and investment assessments – as well as multipolar corporate training and speaking engagements. In addition to his advisory activities (, he cooperates with major US universities (Stern School of Business/NYU, Columbia University, Harvard Business School and Prof Michael E. Porter’s international cluster affiliates) as well as international think-tanks, incl. India China and America Institute (USA), Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (China) and EU Center (Singapore). He is a Senior Fulbright Scholar. His commentaries are released in major outlets in a dozen nations across all world regions, from the United States and Europe to China and India. He divides his time between New York City, Shanghai, occasionally Europe and often traveling, especially in Asia.

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