The transformation of the global economy brought about by the proliferation of digital technology has placed Member States of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a "good position" to reap new opportunities for regional economic growth, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi yesterday (12 Sep).
"This Fourth Revolution is upon us. The global economy is being fundamentally transformed by new and far-reaching breakthroughs ... Markets are growing bigger, and becoming increasingly integrated.
"Here in ASEAN, Member States are in a good position to take advantage of the new opportunities that this Fourth IR [Industrial Revolution] brings," said Mr Lee, adding that this is because the "economic fundamentals" of Member States "are robust".
Mr Lee projected that ASEAN will become "the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030, after the US [United States], China, and the European Union".
Citing the ASEAN region's "young and educated workforce," he noted that "60% of our workforce is under 35 years old," and that a large segment of the youth workforce is technologically literate, which will serve as an asset in a rapidly evolving global workforce.
He added that ASEAN is "committed to economic integration," and that in the effort of "building new networks" and "creating new synergies," Member States have drafted several major plans in expediting the process of making the dream of regional economic integration a reality.
Among the plans, said Mr Lee, is the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025. Currently in the works, the blueprint aims to facilitate business operations throughout the region, as well as an agreement on e-commerce that will serve as a framework around which businesses are able to regulate and promote their products without hassle in every Member State.
Businesses, added Mr Lee, are important, as "the private sector," particularly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), serve as the "backbone" of ASEAN's economies, and as "sources of entrepreneurship".
Under the helm of Singapore as the chairman of ASEAN this year, a Smart Cities Network made up of 26 pilot cities has also been created to allow cities to exchange ideas and resources in terms of urban planning and development.
Additionally, Singapore, a key player in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Asia-Pacific region, will host the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP) trade expo next month. The trade fair will mark the first Asian edition of Hannover Messe, which is the largest industrial expo in the world.
Mr Lee concluded that while the outcome of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is unpredictable due to its "dynamic and continuing" nature, he is "optimistic" about the future of ASEAN, as the region "has its own competitive strengths," and that "by putting together ideas and resources" and integrating the economies of its Member States, ASEAN "will be in the strong position to ride this wave" of Industrial Revolution 4.0 "to bring tangible benefits to our peoples and our economies".