“Keep the small strong: ASEAN Member States’ Response to the Pandemic“
In light of the pandemic, the national response in ASEAN member states (AMS) to Covid-19 indicates a vast disparity between countries. The apparent discrepancy in the Southeast Asia region can be seen in the case of fatality rates, with under 1 percent in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, to over 9 percent in Indonesia (Abuza, 2020). Various examples regarding the government’s decision-making can be categorized into two models; extremely proactive in flattening the curve and those who were in complete denial for fear of adverse economic repercussions.
In the middle of dilemma between the urgency of reopening economy or imposing strict quarantines, AMS may have neglected particular attention that should be given to the “people” itself. In sort, policy-making focus on human security approach is often underestimated. Without any intention to downplay the effort of public health responses, practically, there are vulnerable groups that are most affected by the movement restrictions. They are daily-wage workers, the urban poor, the elderly, and those who digitally unable to work-from-home because of simply impractical or out of reach. Also, at the same time, not enough resources are being distributed to secure a stable macro-economy and thus require immediate attention.
The pandemic has been bringing adverse effects on the well-being of the people and global socio-economic developments. ASEAN has convened a series of meetings, including with external partners such as the United States, China, and the European Union, to address the critical response (CSIS, 2020). However, there has been little collective action, and they failed to recognize human vulnerabilities in the face of COVID-19. These two components are essential in bridging the gap between citizen’s needs and which policy should be taken. ASEAN needs to emphasize the critical importance of a coherent, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder, and whole-of-ASEAN Community approach in ensuring AMS’s timely and effective response to the pandemic.