Asean has just celebrated its 54th birthday but it was not entirely a happy occasion. The past few months have brought an unrelenting flow of bad news for the region. After initially managing the Covid-19 pandemic relatively well last year, the region has suffered a troubling surge in infections and deaths this year. Gloomy reports abound in the international media, of the region as the epicentre of the pandemic, of cemeteries and crematoria filling up and patients struggling to secure medical care. Adding to the gloom has been the undeniable deterioration in political risks, particularly in Myanmar but also in other parts of the region.

So, is this region going to perennially be the place where hope rises every now and then, only to be dashed? Our view is the region’s weaknesses cannot be simply wished away; they are real. However, we also assess that the main downside risks can be mitigated. Moreover, there are also some strong positive trends favouring the region. So, taken as a whole, we believe that the pessimism over the region in the international media is somewhat overdone.

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