Asean must seize opportunities amid slowdown in growth centres

Posted on  30/09/2011  |  Media Centre

Friday, September 30, 2011

ASEAN must take advantage of opportunities at a time when the world’s traditional growth centres are slowing down, Philippine President Benigno S Aquino III yesterday said.

At the close of Asia Inc Forum’s Asean 100 Leadership Forum here, Aquino said for Asean to grow further, it is necessary for the member states to work together to continue to maintain peace, stability and an environment that attracts investments.

“I am aware that the diversity in Asean makes it difficult to completely agree with one another on some issues, but this has not stopped us from collaborating on the economic front, and integration has always helped us push our economies.”

He said he was hopeful that the Asean region can work together and build on the momentum at a time when most of the traditional growth centres of the world are slowing down.

“Investors are looking for opportunities here in this part of the globe and we must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities where we must remind ourselves that if the rest of the world is coming to us, then we must take the effort to further explore economic opportunity within our region,” he said.

“Instability in one country affects us all, and stability in our countries benefits us all,” Aquino said.

On whether the Philippines is the next Asian Tiger, Aquino said that although his administration was only 16 months old, there have been solid and positive results that the Philippines will now use as benchmarks to improve and bring it back to its former glory.

“It is difficult not to be optimistic of the prospects of Asean and the Philippines alike, but I have alwaysemphasised that in the wake of such development, is that our work does not end in the wave of such positive results,” he said.

Aquino said Asean must treat these indicators of economic performance not as goals already achieved, but rather as benchmarks so that the region and the Philippines’ growth can continue.

He cited figures from 2010, showing that the Singapore economy grew by 14.5 per cent, Thailand by 7.8 per cent, the Philippines by 7.6 per cent and Laos’ by 7.5 per cent.

“This growth has underscored investor interest in our region, and foreign direct investment enclosed in Southeast Asia reached more than US$70 billion in 2010 and I am sure when I speak for everyone here when I say this will rise further this year, and in the following years,” he said.

Aquino said Asean’s success is one that has been reflected in the Philippines economy as well, where the growth rate in the past 16 months has been “better than ever” in the span of one year. “Our stock market repeatedly set record highs and we have been ranked by the World Economic Forum as the 75th economy in their most recent competitiveness index … and we are 10 places higher than we were in the previous year making us one of the 10 most improved countries in the region this year,” he said.

He added that there have been four credit rating agencies that have given the Philippines positive credit actions all within the first year of the administration, flowing from six downgrades and a solitary upgrade in the nine and a half years preceding.

Aquino credited these to his administration advocating and practising good governance, citing his campaign message ‘Kung Walang Corrupt Walang Mahirap’ (If there is no corruption, there is no poverty’).

“This concept champions inclusive growth such that the gains that looks so good on paper truly reflects in the life of each and every Filipino, which means focusing on projects that can help our people with jobs, education and social education that they need so that they can live full and productive lives,” he said.

Aquino said that his administration had set aside almost a third of next year’s budget for social service projects.

“We do not want the economic benefits of growth to merely trickle down to the last Filipino, we want the benefits to be felt by every last one,” he said.

He also touted his administration’s promotion of transparency and accountability, by clearing the system of people who have “chosen to tread the paradoxical path of public service only to serve themselves”.

Forum convener, Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, said given the strides made by the Philippines so far it wasn’t a question of whether the country can be the next Asian Tiger, but when it will be the next AsianTiger.

The Brunei Times

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