ASEAN’s recovering economies will present plenty of emerging opportunities for businesses in 2021. Improving consumer spending, rising government budgets, and resumption in industrial activity will create demand, providing support for top-line growth. However, to effectively capture the available opportunities, companies will need to deal with heightened risk levels as well. Secondary outbreaks will likely disrupt business operations, rising political tensions will dampen consumer and business sentiment in certain markets, and weak inflation levels combined with depreciating currencies will put pressure on margins. As a result, executives and their teams will need to hone the skill sets required to navigate severe uncertainty and volatility to maximize their chances of success.

Continued coronavirus outbreaks will weigh on growth for the foreseeable future

ASEAN will continue to suffer from secondary COVID-19 outbreaks over the coming quarters. This will impact your prospects for profitable growth by disrupting business activity, weighing on household incomes, and forcing governments to divert resources toward epidemic management.

Investment will likely gradually recover but remain below pre-COVID levels in 2021

Investment will recover over the coming quarters but will likely remain below pre-COVID levels in most ASEAN markets. Continued risks posed by COVID-19, heightened political tensions, and limited external demand will dampen business sentiment and limit B2B demand.

ASEAN markets will exhibit marked differences in their recovery timelines

Regional executives who have a clear view of recovery timelines for ASEAN markets will be better positioned to allocate resources across their portfolio, challenge their local teams’ assumptions, and manage expectations from corporate than those who do not.

Actions for Business Professionals

  1. Align internally on macroeconomic assumptions that may serve as inputs for target setting and performance evaluations.
  2. Build substantial flexibility into your demand forecasts in markets where you do not have a pressure-tested omnichannel strategy, as secondary outbreaks could create substantial volatility in your revenue generation for those markets.
  3. Prepare for some shifts in government spending priorities over the next 12–18 months. As the COVID-19 situation in the ASEAN countries develops, governments may be forced to divert resources towards epidemic management.

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