Bruneians bullish on economic outlook: Survey

|     Azlan Othman     |

RESPONDENTS from Brunei Darussalam expected moderate to strong economic growth this year in Asean region in spite of uncertainties, according to a survey released this week.

The survey covered many influential people in Southeast Asian countries. The survey, mostly of the region’s political elite found that the 55.4 per cent of the respondents who hold a positive economic outlook for the region outweighed the 21.3 per cent who feel that the 10 ASEAN member countries would experience a moderate or sharp downturn this year.

The most bullish sentiments are found in Laos (86.2 per cent), Cambodia (66.7 per cent) and Brunei Darussalam (64.4 per cent). Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are more bearish, according to the survey by the Asia Studies Centre, at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute that conducted the State of Southeast Asia: 2019 online survey between November 18 and December 5, 2018 to seek the views of Southeast Asians on regional affairs.

The survey used the purposive sampling method, canvassing views from a total of 1,008 Southeast Asians who are regional experts and stakeholders from the policy, research, business, civil society, and media communities. As such, the results of this survey are not meant to be representative.

Rather, it aims to present a general view of prevailing attitudes among those in a position to inform or influence policy on regional political, economic and social issues and concerns.

The academe and think-tank community made up the largest group of respondents at 42 per cent. Nearly one third of the respondents (32.9 per cent) came from the government, inter-governmental and international organisation cluster, which provides a rare opportunity to access perspectives from these often closed circles.

The business and finance community (10.4 per cent), civil society and non-govermental organisation (eight per cent), and the media (6.7 per cent) made up the remaining 25.1 per cent respondents. The 1,008 respondents were drawn from all 10 ASEAN member states to ensure that the survey accurately reflects the regional view.

The highest responses for the survey came from Myanmar (16.9 per cent), followed by Malaysia (14.5 per cent), Singapore (12.7 per cent), Vietnam (12.3 per cent), Indonesia (11.4 per cent), Thailand (11.4 per cent), the Philippines (11 per cent), Brunei Darussalam (4.5 per cent), Laos (2.9 per cent) and Cambodia (2.4 per cent).

The overall mood of the region is one of pessimism with 42.5 per cent of the respondents expecting the region to encounter a period of uncertainty and a small percentage (2.2 per cent) harbouring concerns of a turbulent year ahead. On the other hand, 32.3 per cent see the region as either “stable” (30.3 per cent) or “very stable” (two per cent).

Nearly a quarter of the respondents (23 per cent) view the fundamentals of the region as “unchanged”. The most optimistic is Laos with 68.9 per cent viewing the region to be “stable” or “very stable” while Singaporeans are the most pessimistic, with 66.9 per cent expecting 2019 to be marked by uncertainties and even turbulence.

Across all ASEAN member states, the positive outlook (55.4 per cent) on the regional economy outweighs the negative responses (21.3 per cent). More than half of the respondents (55.4 per cent) expect that the region will experience growth, whether moderate (49.9 per cent) or strong (5.5 per cent). Nearly a quarter (23.3 per cent) anticipate a stable year ahead.

The strong endorsement of the economy is somewhat surprising given the current headwinds from the ongoing United States-China trade war. On the other hand, 21.3 per cent of the respondents see the region heading towards a moderate (19.9 per cent) or sharp downturn (1.4 per cent).