Covid-19 containment measures have been hard on  Southeast Asian transport infrastructure and utilities. Many piled on leverage in expectation of strong secular growth. Now, firms are grappling with the double hit of stringent government restrictions and rising sovereign rating risk. A slower-than-expected economic recovery, funding and liquidity strains, and weakness in the ability or willingness of governments to support state-owned entities also present risks to the region. However, industry will recover and continue to be supported by investments in infrastructure projects. Our focus story, “Towards Recovery”, throws light on the trends and opportunities in the region in light of Covid-19.

Rapid development and urbanisation in Southeast Asia has led to considerable investor interest in the infrastructure sector of the region. One such important area is the water sector. The current issue gives a brief account of the remarkable improvements in the water sector in the region.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a series of unprecedented challenges for the Southeast Asian economies. It has affected all the infrastructure sectors, with roads being no exception. From derailed project execution to reduction in traffic numbers, the sector faced unanticipated disruptions on account of Covid-19. The story “Weathering the Storm” reviews the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak across the roads and bridges sector, the countries’ response to the current challenges and the way forward.

One of five mega infrastructure projects in the government’s flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme, the U-Tapao airport development in Rayong will link with Bangkok’s Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports via high speed trains to handle up to 200 million passengers annually. The project will create a hub for tourism, logistics and aviation in the EEC, while the Eastern Aerotropolis between Rayong and Pattaya will revitalise the eastern seaboard, connecting with Bangkok through sea, road, rail and air, and making Thailand an aviation hub and gateway to Asia. The story “New Beginnings” talks about the progress and opportunities under the U-Tapao Airport and Eastern Airport City Project.

In the story “In Fast-track Mode”, Southeast Asia Infrastructure provides an overview of the country’s hydropower plans and progress, cross-border transmission interconnections and power trade opportunities. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is taking key steps to harness its hydropower potential in a bid to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia”. The country has a hydropower potential of about 26 GW, of which one-third has been utilised so far but several projects are under planning/construction to increase hydro generation which would mainly be exported to the neighouring countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China.

The governments in the SEA region are working on drafting regulations and policies that can ensure protection and privacy of citizens’ data as platforms of internet giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google become an important part of their lives. Our story “Data Watch” looks at how the SEA nations are exploring means to better regulate tech giants and tap the digital economy.