By Shoeb Kagda
As the world tries to come to terms with the disruption unleashed by newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump, Southeast Asia offers international investors as well as its own companies enormous opportunities for growth.
In a panel discussion jointly hosted by BeritaSatu Media Holdings and the World Economic Forum, the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was put on the table. Moderated by John Riady, executive director of the Lippo Group, the panel noted that ASEAN was still a region that offered growth and stability but uneven development and lack of infrastructure had to be tackled.
“Its all doom and gloom at Davos this year as fears of rising protectionism dominated the discussions. Amid such sentiment, we should be grateful that in ASEAN, we are still relatively optimistic and in general ASEAN is still about openness,” said former Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu.
“Our main challenge is inequality and uneven development,” she added. “The greatest value of ASEAN is the peace it has brought to the region.”
This view was supported by Nazir Razak, chairman of Malaysia’s CIMB Holdings. “We are a huge fan of ASEAN,” he said. “CIMB went full throttle in building an ASEAN business but we need patience and non-tariff barriers are still high.”
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen noted that being under one umbrella was critical for the region but all ASEAN members should push for greater connectivity.