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ASEAN Ministers Bullish About Future

L to R: Bambang Susantono, Korn Chatikavanij, Ronnie Chan, (Chairman, ASHK Center), Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah, and Jose Isidro Camacho on Jan. 21, 2010. (ASHK)
by wpoon
21 January 2010

HONG KONG, January 21, 2010 - Asia's emerging markets have been the engines powering the global economy, according to ministers
from the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, or ASEAN, who expressed optimism about the road ahead.

At the ASEAN
Investment Outlook Ministerial Luncheon, co-organized
by the Asia Society Hong Kong
Center and the Kuala
Lumpur-based Asian
Strategy and Leadership Institute, participants were told ASEAN member nations have embarked on major economic stimulus packages
while continuing to liberalize their economies to head off the financial crisis.

Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah, Malaysia's Minister of Finance II, pointed out, "We are not looking at
the current challenges of the economic crisis but the bigger picture. What will
be our position after the crisis? We have carried out an extensive study of the
economy and feel the need to move out of a middle income to a high income

, Indonesia's Deputy Minister for Infrastructure and Regional
Development, said, "We are very optimistic about the next five years."

At the same time, Thailand's Minister
of Finance, Korn Chatikavanij, cautioned,
"If governments continue to stimulate our economies like over the past 12
months, we will run into long-term problems of higher public debt and reduced
fiscal space with which to maintain our maneuverability."

Despite the overall upbeat assessment, Credit Suisse Asia Pacific Vice Chairman Jose Isidro Camacho underscored, "There are also challenges, particularly politics. It is an
unpredictable factor in ASEAN. Economically I think inflation will be a growing concern as
the world recovers."

Much of that recovery has
been attributed to China.
While panelists agreed that China's
economic resilience has benefited the region, Korn noted there are potential problems.
"The currency issue. Without a doubt, the situation we have has made us less
price competitiveness because of China's policy on the yuan."

On Beijing's currency policy, Camacho commented,
"We need stability, not to create a situation that destabilizes what has been
the only economic growth engine in the world. From my observation, Chinese policymakers
have been taking some steps."

Camacho urged the United States
to continue efforts in building Asian prosperity. "Stay engaged in the region.
The reason is very simple. Security. A disengaged America could be a concern on the
overall security stability of the region."

Reported by Penny Tang, Asia Society Hong Kong Center