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The 6th Session of Eurasian Online Seminar with Bilahari Kausikan: South East Asia after the Pandemic

On Thursday, May 7, the Department of International Relations and the International Laboratory on World Order Studies and the New Regionalism of National Research University Higher School of Economics held the 6th session of the Eurasian Online Seminar with a renown Singaporean diplomat and scholar Bilahari Kausikan. The topic of his talk was “South East Asia after the Pandemic”.

Bilahari Kausikan is the Chairman of the Middle East Institute, an autonomous institute of the National University of Singapore. He was educated at Raffles Institution, the University of Singapore and Columbia University in New York. Mr Kausikan was Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2010 to 2013, having served as Second Permanent Secretary since 2001. He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018. His earlier appointments at the Ministry include Deputy Secretary for South-east Asia, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, and Ambassador to the Russian Federation. He is often referred to as "Singapore's undiplomatic diplomat" for his insightful and comments and analyses on Singaporean and world politics. He has been known in recent years for commenting extensively on Singapore's foreign affairs in newspaper articles, public lectures and social media.

Mr Kausikan is the other of many articles and several books including: Dealing with an Ambiguous World (a collection of his lectures given in 2016) and Singapore is not an Island (2019). 

During the seminar, Bilahari Kausikan gave his own assessment of the forecasts of political and economic changes in the Southeast Asia region after the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the professor suggests that the pandemic will not cause drastic changes in the alignment of forces in the region, namely, the growing control of the United States or China over Southeast Asia. This happens due to a number of reasons, including the mistrust of the countries towards the United States and China, as well as the growth of multipolarity due to the intensification of Russian international policy and the growing possibility for countries to choose their own foreign policy strategy. Regarding economic changes, Bilahari Kausikan emphasized that the active technological development of the countries of the South East Asia region will radically change the supply and value chains, which will affect the changing market relations of the economies of the countries, including both developing countries - Myanmar, Cambodia, and developed markets, such as Singapore, Malaysia, etc. Specifically, during the pandemic, about 70% of jobs in Singapore proved to be effectively conducted online, which will inevitably lead to changes in the real estate market due to the absence of the need to rent or buy office spaces. Also during the Q&A section, Professor Kausikan gave comments on the political and economic development of various countries in the region, as well as on the measures taken by states to fight the coronavirus disease.