These are not happy times for Asia. China, the key driver of Asian and world growth, has just reported its weakest expansion in recent memory. Elections in India and Indonesia guarantee that political expediency will trump prudent economic policy. Developed Asian nations are not doing much better: South Korea, faced with an anaemic economy, has been tempted to fuel anti-Japan sentiment as a diversion. If only things were better beyond the region. They aren't.
This week, the European Central Bank said that what was thought to be a temporary slowdown in the euro zone was likely to be more prolonged because of global trade tensions. The US economy, after an extended period of expansion, is poised for slowdown. All signals point to a disorderly Brexit, with untold consequences. Meanwhile, voters everywhere are showing a worrying receptivity to anti-globalisation rhetoric. Mr Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of China's securities regulator, was not wrong when he told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos that countries need to reform. It was thus wholly appropriate that this year's annual WEF meeting had Globalisation 4.0 as its theme. As Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat laid out, multilateralism and free trade are key for future common prosperity.