The year 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), which is a unique achievement considering the conflicts and poverty which characterised the region in the first half of the 20th century. Since the inception of the ASEAN 5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) in 1967, the association has not only doubled in membership to include Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia, but has also successfully weathered both the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the global economic crisis of 2008-09, to make it the sixth-largest economy globally at present. 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, developing infrastructure and an over dependence on external trade, raise questions about the sustainability of ASEAN’s growth story.
The Future of ASEAN – Time to Act presents a view of the policies ASEAN governments need to adopt to ensure their countries continue to mature, and a set of innovative strategies that companies from the automotive, financial services, consumer goods, medical devices, refined fuels, telecommunications and transportation sectors ought to develop and execute to achieve their regional growth ambitions.
Common themes for these new strategies include:
1. Localisation: Transition to more localised sourcing, production and sales through the development of regional hubs to serve ASEAN consumers. (e.g. automotive, medical devices).
2. Digitalisation: Adoption of digital capabilities to improve the production and transportation of goods and services, as well as communication with consumers and businesses. (e.g. financial services, consumer goods and telecommunications).
3. Partnerships and Alliances: Development of partnerships and alliances, particularly cross sector and with industry disruptors (e.g. Fintech), as companies try to stay relevant and competitive whilst meeting consumers’ expectations in a profitable manner (e.g. refined fuels, transportation).
ASEAN can be proud of what it has achieved in the past 50 years, but global growth needs ASEAN to fulfil its potential. The era of passive growth is over, it is Time to Act.