Jakarta – Asean has lost some of its shine and is now perceived by many analysts to be adrift, an organisation mired in mid-life crisis. That frank, but hardly eyebrow-raising, assessment came from none other than Mr Goh Chok Tong, the Senior Minister from Singapore, which has long made Asean the heart of its foreign policy.
But there is still hope for Asean if Indonesia can get its act together.
“To have a strong Asean, we need Indonesia to play an active leadership role. Over the past few years, Indonesia has been preoccupied internally. Unless the largest member in Asean is able to play an active part in coalescing the other members towards achieving common goals, it will be difficult for Asean to regain its vibrancy and dynamism,” Mr Goh said in a keynote address at the launch of the CEO Circle, a forum for top businessmen in the region, on April 5. The Senior Minister was in the Indonesian capital for an official visit.
Referring to the economic competition that Asean faces from China and India, Mr Goh suggested that Asean should ride on the dynamism of these countries.
“By hitching Asean to these two powerful steeds, we can fly together to greater prosperity.”
He also called on Asean countries to band together to form a “common chariot” because individually, none has the economic pull of China or India.
“Individually, Asean economies are too small or weak to achieve economies of scale. But through market allocation of resources and specialisation within Asean, efficiency and synergy can be achieved,” Mr Goh said.
* Hitch a ride from dynamos China and India (The Straits Times, April 6)
* How Asean countries can benefit from a dynamic Asia (The Jakarta Post, April 7)