The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will find it hard to become a major economic force by 2050 if it fails to meet its goal to become a fully functioning economic community by 2025, said Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Arroyo, who chaired Asean in 2007, said this in her speech during the Asean Business and Investment Summit (Abis) on Tuesday, wherein she was tasked to talk about what Asean would look like 50 years from now.
“I have no crystal ball and neither has everyone,” she said, noting how difficult it is to predict the future, given how unpredictable Asean has been.
Nevertheless, she said hitting the bloc’s goals nearly a decade from now would give it a “great chance” of becoming a stronger economy in five decades.
Established in 2015, the Asean Economic Community (AEC) laid down a blueprint for the decade ahead.
In essence, the region wants to be highly integrated and cohesive, and at the same time inclusive and people-centered, she said.
“If we achieve our vision in eight years, we have a great chance of being a global force in 50 years, but if we can’t even achieve that vision in 2025 we’ll have an uphill battle,” she said.
She said there was a need to break down nontariff barriers in the region, as well as implement agreements that aim to bring down barriers on the flow of labor.
The former President hosted last week a welcome dinner for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. She said she asked the prime minister about his vision 50 years ahead, and the latter said that “Asean would have succeeded in narrowing the development gap” among member states by then.
She, however, said that there might still be income disparity “within nations” even if such gap was narrowed.
“If huge segments of a country and a community of nations are left behind by progress, then these disadvantaged sectors and states will reject development and globalization paradigms and embrace alternative and often isolationist and sometimes extremist and violent ideologies,” she said.
“So for open economies and free enterprise to win, everyone must win,” she added.
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