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NEWS UPDATES 25 August 2010

Rich-poor gaps haunt Asean

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Asean leaders warned Wednesday of a widening gap between Southeast Asia's richest and poorest nations that could threaten the region's drive for a single market.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have recorded high growth rates but their per capita gross domestic product remains the lowest among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"The danger of (a) widening development gap remains a major obstacle to ASEAN's future development, especially given the context of expanded ASEAN economic integration," Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in opening remarks to an annual meeting of the bloc's trade and commerce ministers.

ASEAN is working towards establishing by 2015 a single market and manufacturing base of about 600 million people, a goal which was spurred by competition from China and India.

The gap between ASEAN's rich and poor members "is quite wide" and could undermine efforts to create the single market, ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan told reporters.

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