Hong Kong - Nearly a decade after the Asian financial crisis put paid to the region’s hopes of a Pacific Century, the world’s focus is once again shifting to Asia. And foreign investors and businessmen who are ready to take the plunge will find a “New Asia” waiting for them, said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
In his speech to international business leaders at the 38th Pacific Basin Economic Council on June 13, Mr Abdullah offered a rosy picture of the “New Asia”: More dynamic, robust and confident of its leading role in the world stage.
Businessmen will find a region that is more efficient, less fraught with red tape and graft, and offering a larger pool of home-grown talent, the Malaysian leader added.
The “New Asia” - still a work in progress - is also characterised by an increasing drive for innovation, with countries such as Japan and South Korea accounting for more than a quarter of all United States patents awarded each year. Taiwan and Singapore have leapfrogged the United States in the overall number of patent citations.
The “New Asia” places a high premium on economic integration, which has advanced from just involving Asean countries to becoming Asean Plus Three and beyond. “Asean, for one, has always recognised that integration is a necessity, not a choice,” he said.
Mr Abdullah acknowledged that the region - which is expected to generate two-thirds of the world’s GDP by 2010 - still faces problems such as a shortage of skilled managers, infrastructure problems and transaction costs due to bureaucracy.
But he added: “We must recognise that there have been great determination and tremendous effort made by governments and peoples in Asia to overcome these challenges. This determination and effort has resulted in a strong feeling of regeneration, renewal and progress in Asia today, hence an excitement over the ‘New Asia’.”
*PM: ‘New Asia’ will be easier to relate to, navigate (New Straits Times, June 14)
*Asia’s growing stature hailed (The Star, June 14)