SARS impact: key factor is time it takes

The Nordic diplomatic representations and the Nordic business associations in South East Asia were almost unanimous in their evaluation of the impact of SARS on the economic relations between their respective home countries and their current country of residence.
     In a quick survey conducted by ScandAsia at the height of the crisis in April all confirmed not surprisingly a very negative effect on the tourism industry and related sectors.
     Exports from South East Asia would in most respondents view also suffer somewhat due to postponement of business trips from Scandinavia, but not dramatically. In their comments, most of the embassies and business associations said the length of time, before the SARS disease would be under control, was the crucial factor
     Svein Sorlie, Vice Chairman of MNBC – Malaysia Norway Business Council writes:
     “The key factor will be the time it takes before the outbreak appears to be under control. If the peak has been reached already, business will quite quickly go back to normal. With regard to own business (Barber International Ltd.) SARS has so far not been a factor in our financial performance.”
     Nils Gunnar Hjellegjerde, President of Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Thailand also points to the question of time. South East Asian exporters had seen many cancellations or postponement of business visits. And they “will probably be more affected later on if the situation gets worse or drags out in time,” he adds.
     Cancellations of business meetings has also the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi worried:
     “Several business appointments from abroad have been cancelled in recent weeks. This means that orders are delayed and may even cancelled,” writes the Embassy in its reply.
     Imports from Scandinavia would, however, see little if any negative effect except for imports related to the tourism industry, most of the respondents said. Only the Embassy of Sweden in Singapore disagreed somewhat. The embassy estimated, that “the SARS outbreak will no doubt have negative effects on the level of economic activity in Singapore” and as such also affect Swedish companies in Singapore.
     “Present estimates are that overall economic growth, because of SARS, will be 0,5-1,5 percent lower this year than otherwise expected. Consumer spending, incomes from tourism as well as Singaporean exports to other SARS hit countries will all be negatively affected. Even though it is too early to say how all this will affect Swedish businesses in Singapore and the region it is most likely that demand for their products and services, at least in the short run, will not stay immune to the consequences of the general slump in the economic activity,” writes the Embassy.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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