By working together to enhance economic links, strengthen connectivity, and develop our people to connect with the greater global community, we can create a brighter future for the two regions and people and the world." These, according to Singapore’s senior minister and coordinating minister for national security Teo Chee Hean, are crucial in helping the South Asian region meet its current challenges, realise its potential and enhance economic well-being.

Speaking to a gathering of more than 400 participants from Singapore and overseas at the South Asia Diaspora Convention (SADC) on 16 November, Teo highlighted the challenges the world faces amid the “lightning-rod issues" of trade and foreign investment in several countries and the disruptions this has caused to globally integrated logistics and supply chains and the global economy.

“Will we continue on the path of greater multilateral trade liberalization?...Or will we see more restrictions, tariffs and barriers placed on technology, trade and investment?…Will we live in a more integrated world? Or will we live in a bifurcated and fragmented world?" he asked.

In a time of global flux, when international rules and norms are under threat, the senior minister stressed on the importance of cooperation. “No country or region can overcome (these challenges) on its own. This is an opportunity for us to come together now and to help shape the architecture of the future and to strengthen regional and global integration," he said.

Teo also outlined how the South Asia diaspora, which, at 41 million, is the largest in the world, can play an important role in strengthening economic linkages. “The diaspora communities are natural advocates and supporters with useful networks that the South Asian countries can leverage to promote closer economic cooperation within the region and with other regions," the senior minister said.

On strengthening connectivity, Teo said “infrastructure provides the sinew for development and growth" and welcomed the South Asia countries and their diaspora to Infrastructure Asia, set up by Singapore, “to connect with best in class partners with the right resources and expertise."

To help to develop South Asia’s huge demographic dividend, Teo called education “the key transformational process", and said education was the way to take an abundant, latent resource into a creative, productive future workforce. “Closing the education gap will help develop full human resource potential in South Asia and ensure benefits of growth are widely shared," he said.

MintAsia was the media partner for the event.