Asean’s priority development requirements

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GIL H. A SANTOS

GIL H. A SANTOS

From the caveman’s days to this 21st century, economics has always driven world development forward. And the activities of planet Earth’s human population have caused political, social, cultural economic and environmental changes—even wars and peace, destructions and constructions/reconstructions.

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Reviewing some available data on the internet over the weekend, I found demographic statistics that should inevitably push the readers to some critical thinking.

World Bank figures show the 10 Asean countries will probably have 666,737,000 people by 2020, which will most likely increase to 787,318,000 by 2045.

The breakdown is interesting as it shows the rate of increase per country: (see Table 1)

On the other hand, here are some other countries, their populations and increase rates for your reading: (see Table 2)

It is should be noted that the rate of population growth will decrease – negative in some industrialized economies – but the total number will still increase. This means there will be expected changes (more modern systems) in urbanization and community developments, work ethics, lifestyles, transportation and people’s mobility, telecommunications and information systems, depending on the country’s economic progress.

The demographic data becomes vital for economic planners and political leaders because the number of people translates to a demand-supply situation in terms of food and potable water anywhere, anytime. It has even caused conflicts and violence – and the evolution of trade, wars and diplomacy, human history shows us.

International evaluators and financial institutions believe the Asean region will be the world’s fastest growing economic region bound to increase roughly 6.5 on average, while the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation recently said in its The World in 2050 Report that the Philippines will be the fastest growing among the Asean 10.

On the other hand, China, which has enjoyed a double-digit growth rate and has become the world second economic power next only to the U.S., will slow down to less than 6.5 percent annually in the next decade. This is quite the opposite of what Beijing had originally predicted at the start of this 21st century when it said “this is the Chinese century.”

The Asean trajectory is not all surprising because of its demography with a considerable consumer spending appetite, rich natural (agricultural, marine, mineral and forest products and biodiversity) resources including fossil fuel and the renewable sources of energy due to its geographical location—the tropics.

Considering the global and regional geopolitical and economic developments in the past three years, I predicted in my recent address before a Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Bohol that the following are the country’s sunrise investment areas: 1) tourism (including medical tourism); 2) telecommunications; 3) construction (for infrastructure); 4) rural banking and financial intermediary services; 5) mass communications and information technologies; 6) education; 7) housing and community development; 8) agri-agro-fisheries industrialization; 9) micro-medium-small scale enterprises; 10) physical science research to improve productivity; and 11) risk, change, resource and business management services.

But Asean 10, honestly, cannot meet these expectations/predictions without reforms. Corruption, culture of impunity, poverty, environmental degradation, illegal drug trade and terrorism are common to almost all of them—in different degrees and intensities, of course. There is no perfect governance or national leadership in any form or ideology. Admittedly, cultural changes take generations to accomplish. But changes in the various Asean cultures need to be addressed urgently.

The faster these reforms are instituted, the faster economic investors respond and put their money where their mouths are.

Asean leaders must closely monitor in the coming months important political developments worldwide. One of these is the coming ascendancy of Donald Trump to the US presidency. It will have an impact on all countries, of course, because the US admittedly is the world’s most powerful nation. Other political events of international importance will be the coming elections in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, and the negotiations for the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (known as Brexit) because of their impact on the world markets.

Be updated on international and regional information because it will enable us all to peek into tomorrow, now. And if we see that future is unfavorable for the Asean and us individually, let us act now to influence, or better cope with the negatives of that tomorrow.

(Send your comments and reactions to gilshj99ph@yahoo.com. Gil H. A. Santos teaches journalism and geopolitics in the Lyceum of the Philippines University and is president/trustee of the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management)

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