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Asean meeting to address Transboundary Haze Pollution (21st MSC)

The drier and warmer weather could lead to an escalation of hotspot activities and increase the risk of transboundary haze occurrence in the region. MSC countries pledged to remain vigilant and to monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts

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The Twenty-first Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution (21st MSC) was held on 6 August 2019 in Brunei Darussalam, and attended by Ministers/representatives responsible for the environment, for land, forest fires and haze, from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

The Twenty-first Meeting of the Technical Working Group on Transboundary Haze Pollution (21st TWG) preceded the Meeting.

The Ministers noted the weather outlook information presented by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) for this dry season, that drier and warmer conditions in the southern ASEAN region were expected between August and October 2019. In addition, neutral (neither El-Niño nor La-Niña) conditions were forecast.

The drier and warmer weather could lead to an escalation of hotspot activities and increase the risk of transboundary haze occurrence in the region.

MSC countries pledged to remain vigilant and to monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze during periods of drier weather.

asean haze
The fact that the ASEAN Secretariat is based in Jakarta will also help, since Indonesia is largely responsible for the haze problem (with other ASEAN members also contributing with their own emissions).

The Ministers noted ASMC’s continual efforts in updating its technical capabilities to better serve the ASEAN region in monitoring, assessment and provision of early warning for transboundary haze occurrence.

This involved significant and sustained investment by ASMC in an expert team of operational meteorologists performing 24/7 monitoring and assessment of regional weather and haze, and research scientists working on advanced weather and climate prediction models, as well as supercomputing resources.

The Ministers also noted with appreciation the training courses and technical fora conducted regularly by the ASMC as part of its five-year Regional Capability Building Programme for ASEAN Member States (AMS) through the sharing of technical knowledge and skills in haze monitoring and weather and climate prediction with AMS.

The Ministers noted with appreciation various initiatives and actions by MSC countries to address the transboundary haze pollution in the region.

The MSC countries reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance such as deployment of the technical resources for firefighting assistance on emergency response situation, if requested, and to collaborate among MSC countries with enhanced cooperation and coordination to mitigate land and forest fires, when necessary.

The Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and the Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation towards a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

The Ministers further noted the likelihood of the warmer and drier conditions this year and therefore called for timely actions of national and local agencies to prevent land and/or forest fires and haze pollution arising from such fires.

The Ministers recalled the 34th ASEAN Summit held on 23 June 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, and noted that transboundary haze pollution, arising from land and forest fires remains a major concern in the region. The Ministersagreed to step up cooperation to effectively address the occurrence of transboundary haze pollution through the progress and update of the comprehensive Plan of Action (PoA) in dealing with transboundary haze pollution.

The Ministers agreed to expedite the review of and evaluation of the implementation and achievement of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020 and to recommend a final review of Roadmap for the consideration of the upcoming Meeting of the Committee under the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Agreement.

The Ministers noted the progress towards the finalisation of the Establishment Agreement and Host Country Agreement of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control (ACC THPC) in Indonesia and the urgency to further intensify efforts to bring the negotiations to conclusion.

The Ministers noted the discussion and substantial progress on the implementation of the Strategic Review of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) Programmes and Activities which includes:

(i) enhancing haze control management through early warning/monitoring and fire prevention and suppression;

(ii) refinement of the Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS);

(iii) revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Monitoring, Assessment and Joint Emergency Response under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, in which the Alert Levels, Trigger Points and Actions on Fire Prevention and Suppression were incorporated;

(iv) bilateral collaboration in line with AATHP; and (v) capacity building of ASEAN Member States under the Regional Haze Training Network.

The Ministers recalled that the Ministers at the Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (COP-13) held on 12-13 September 2017 in Brunei Darussalam, welcomed the endorsement of the modality for sharing hotspot information among MSC countries as recommended by the 7th Meeting of the MSC Technical Task Force (7th MTTF). The Ministers noted that the information sharing mechanism has been operationalised during the dry season.

The Ministers noted the significant progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS 2006-2020) through the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems (APSMPE 2014-2020). The Ministers expressed appreciation for the support and cooperation that has been further strengthened with ASEAN Dialogue and Development partners as well as with other International Organisations. The Ministers conveyed their appreciation for the valuable support extended by European Union (EU) through the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA). The Ministers called upon the strong support from the MSC countries and its relevant agencies to the successful implementation of the activities of above said programmes.

The Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Government of Brunei Darussalam for hosting the 21st MSC Meeting, the excellent arrangements made, and generous hospitality provided. The 22nd MSC Meeting will be held in Indonesia in 2020.

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Asean

Assessing the economic impacts of COVID-19 on ASEAN countries

All ASEAN countries are dependent on tourism flows but Thailand is probably the most dependent.

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Author: Jayant Menon, ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a human tragedy. Measures introduced to deal with the pandemic could save lives but are having wide-ranging economic effects and inducing economic contagion.

There are already studies estimating the economic impact of the virus. But greater focus is needed on the transmission mechanisms of the economic contagion and in critiquing how assessments of the economic impacts are made, concentrating on the ASEAN region.

The effects of COVID-19 are hitting ASEAN economies at a time when other risk factors, such as a global growth slowdown, were already rising.

COVID-19 is disrupting tourism and travel, supply chains and labour supply

Uncertainty is driving negative sentiment. This all affects trade, investment and output, which in turn affects growth. Tourism and business travel, as well as related industries, especially airlines and hotels, were the first to be affected. And the conditions are worsening as more countries go into shutdown.

The supply disruptions emanating mostly from China will reverberate throughout the value chain and disrupt production. Since China is the regional hub and accounts for 12 per cent of global trade in parts and components, the cost of the disruption in the short run will be high.

The negative effects of quarantine arrangements on labour supply could also be high depending on duration and sector. Manufacturing has been hit harder than service industries, where telecommuting and other technological aids limit the fall in productivity.

All these disruptions will lead to sharp declines in domestic demand. And their impact on economic growth will further propagate these disruptions. This compounding effect can magnify and extend short-run effects into the long run.

The highest economic cost could come from the intangibles

The effects of negative sentiment about growth and general uncertainty — which is already affecting financial markets — will feed into reduced investment, consumption and growth in the long run.

Rolling recessions around the world now appear inevitable, despite the stimulus measures being contemplated. If so, there will be sharp increases in unemployment and poverty. Some degree of decoupling from China, or de-globalisation in general, may also be a permanent reminder of this pandemic.

Among ASEAN countries, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are heavily integrated in regional supply chains and will be the most affected by a reduction in demand for the goods produced within them. Indonesia and the Philippines have been increasing supply chain engagement and will also not be immune.

Vietnam is the only new ASEAN member integrated into supply chains with China and is already suffering severe supply disruptions.

Given time, supply-side adjustments will alter trade and investment patterns. The main adjustment will involve relocating certain activities along the supply chain from China to ASEAN countries. Although the pandemic will disrupt the relocation phase, ASEAN countries can benefit from the new investments, mitigating overall negative impacts.

Thailand is probably the most tourism dependent Asean country

All ASEAN countries are dependent on tourism flows but Thailand is probably the most dependent. Cambodia and Laos receive most of their investment and aid from China, and a marked growth slowdown in China will affect them the most.

The Philippines and Mekong countries have large overseas foreign worker populations and restrictions on their movement or employment prospects as COVID-19 spreads will affect sending and receiving countries. Brunei and Malaysia are net oil exporters and the price war indirectly induced by the pandemic will hit them hard. Others will benefit from lower oil prices, as will the struggling transport sector.

In measuring the impacts of COVID-19, it is important to separate its marginal impact from observed outcomes. This is important because the remedy may vary depending on the cause of the disruption. This requires an analytical framework that can measure deviations from a baseline scenario that incorporates pre-existing trends. A model-based analysis, rather than casual empiricism, is required to reduce the problem.

Even before the outbreak, risks of a global growth slowdown were rising

The restructuring of regional supply chains had started, driven initially by rising wages in China and accelerated by the US–China trade war. While COVID-19 may further hasten the pace and extent of the restructuring, it is only partly responsible for what may happen. It would be misleading to attribute all of the current disruption to COVID-19. Had the trade war not preceded it, COVID-19 may have resulted in greater disruption to supply chains.

Any assessment of impacts must recognise that the spread of COVID-19 is unpredictable, and so too the response by governments. It is difficult to estimate the impacts of a shock that is uncertain in itself. This reiterates the need for rigorous modelling and scenario analyses. The current trend points to risks rising, often accelerating, as with previous epidemics. This uncertainty underscores the need for caution in assessing, and regular recalibration in producing assessments.

Jayant Menon is a Visiting Senior Fellow in the Regional Economic Studies Programme at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

A version of this article first appeared in ISEAS Commentary.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on the novel coronavirus crisis and its impact.

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Asean

Coronavirus’ economic impact in East and Southeast Asia

The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) estimates that the COVID-19 epidemic could deduct as much as half a percentage point from the economic growth of some regional economies in 2020.

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As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise around the world, there are deep concerns over the potential economic impact of the virus.

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Asean

Trade War Incentive Schemes flourishing in ASEAN

Countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have unveiled an array of incentive packages to entice businesses affected by the US-China trade war.

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Governments across ASEAN have been unveiling an array of incentive packages to entice businesses affected by the US-China trade war.

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