These alone occurred from March to May this year. How will such events affect Asia’s business and investment climate? Foreign investor sentiment and confidence may be reduced. Business costs may increase due to spiralling employee healthcare, delays in logistics and transport infrastructure slowdown. Disasters also reduce power supply, capacity and transmission, natural gas supply, and adversely affect telecommunication networks.

Disaster mitigation measures have rarely been attempted in most Asian countries. This is another opportunity for savvy businesses. In China and India, investments in ‘disaster-proof’ infrastructure and logistics will increase China’s appeal as an investment location.

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Besides disasters, diseases can severely reduce economic growth and development. The World Health Organization has stated that pandemic influenza is the most feared security threat. The WHO reports that since the 1970s, newly emerging diseases have been identified at the unprecedented rate of one or more a year. Between 2003 and 2006, in south-east Asia alone, there were 81 verified events of potential international public health concern. In 2003, SARS killed about 10% of people infected.

As Asian governments and healthcare companies use AsiaBIZ market research surveys to check the Asia health landscape, one cannot help but ponder on a low-base scenario planning case: If more Asian disasters and diseases concurrently strike on a large scale, how well can Asia governments, businesses and citizens really cope?

Lawrence Yeo is CEO of AsiaBIZ Strategy, a Singapore-based consultancy that provides Asia market research and investment/trade promotion services.

E-mail: Lawrence@asiabizstrategy.com