Singapore: Political and economic heavyweights will gather here on Sunday, 24 June, for a regional forum that will examine Asia’s growing clout and the financial crisis that brought it to its knees a decade ago.
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo and Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive of both Renault and Japanese car giant Nissan, are to headline the two-day World Economic Forum meeting in Singapore focused on East Asia.
Organisers say a series of events next year will highlight Asia’s growing international influence, with Japan hosting the G8 summit of the world’s top industrialised nations and China splashing out for the Olympic Games.
South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon will also by then have completed a first year as UN secretary-general.
“Looking ahead in 2008, Asia will be very much on the forefront of the global agenda,” said Lee Howell, director and head of the Asia section at the Geneva-based WEF.
But Asia should also heed lessons learned from the financial crisis that shook the region a decade ago and prepare to manage potential risks such as energy security and climate change.
“We will also look a bit back at the crisis 10 years ago — what has changed, what hasn’t,” Lee said. “And looking forward, we’ll look at the shifting power equation where Asia will assume a bigger leadership role.”
The 1997 crisis was triggered by the collapse of the Thai baht, which was hit by speculative attacks, triggering a massive financial collapse badly affecting regional currencies and stock markets.
Ministers and officials from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam are all expected to attend the seminar, as well as Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.
Ko Kheng Hwa, managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board which is co-hosting the event, said traditionally, companies which used the island-state as a platform for the region came from the United States, Europe and Japan.
Over the past five years however, more companies from China, India and Southeast Asia — over 15,000 currently — have also set up base in Singapore, he said.
“Not only are there many illustrations of Asia’s economic ascendance, there are quite a few illustrations of Asia’s institutional ascendance,” said WEF Asia Pacific associate director Sushant Rao.
But he added there is room for improvement because in the WEF’s latest survey on global competitiveness, only two Asian countries — Japan and Singapore — were in the top 10.