The year 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – a unique achievement, considering the conflicts and poverty which characterised the region in the first half of the 20th century. Since its inception, ASEAN has not only doubled in membership, but has also successfully weathered both the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the global economic crisis of 2008–09, to become the sixth-largest economy globally. Along this remarkable growth journey, ASEAN has managed to balance economic growth with human development to lift millions of people out of poverty across the entire region.
However, a number of challenges, including a slowdown in short-term economic growth, weak workforce productivity, an ageing population, an over dependence on external trade and major voids in infrastructure and national institutions raise questions about the sustainability of ASEAN’s growth story.
In order to progress from an era of passive growth and fulfill their true potential ASEAN nations need to take more proactive measures to continue to attract investments, develop institutions, and evolve people and technological capabilities. The private sector will also have a major role to play by working more closely with governments to develop the right conditions for businesses to prosper.
ASEAN has made remarkable progress over the past 50 years, but what are the threats to economic growth that face ASEAN today? Listen to Jochen Schmittmann, IMF Resident Representative in Singapore, as he shares insights on what global financial conditions, escalating trade tensions, technology and demographics mean for the region going forward.