ASEAN has come a long way and the year 2015 is crucial for ASEAN as the region takes steps to achieve full integration as a united community. The AEC will benefit ASEAN countries if fully and successfully implemented. The AEC will deepen regional cooperation in many areas, with the aim of providing great market opportunities for the region’s businesses as well as great benefits for ASEAN consumers.
ASEAN members must improve the ease of doing business in ASEAN by simplifying rules, investing in infrastructure, and increasing connectivity. However, there are key challenges for ASEAN because of the its vast infrastructure and development gap between its member nations. ASEAN has both the richest and the poorest nations in the world. In addition, opening up labour markets is going to be crucial if we are ASEAN is to realise the potential of economic integration.
With one eye to the future and another eye to the benefits of the present, ASEAN should work together to strive for a united community. By working together, we can make the benefits of integration an attainable reality.
ASEAN would be the world’s seventh largest economy, if it were a single country. The region is expected to reach a combined GDP of US$4 trillion by 2020, and projected to have about 125 million households with an income of over US$7,500 within the next 10 years.
More than 90 million people are expected to move to ASEAN cities by 2030. Hence, ASEAN urbanisation is going to be a key theme for the region in the coming decades. Nearly 40% of ASEAN’s GDP growth in 2015 is expected to come from 142 cities with populations between 200,000 and five million.
There are clear signs of ‘the catch-up effect’ by the less developed ASEAN countries in the areas of infrastructure, education and connectivity.