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When the Thai baht went from 25 baht to the US dollar to about 50 baht per dollar in the space of a few days ,that singular event heralded the start of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. The crisis revealed that the so-called “Asian tiger” economies and their currencies were over-valued.
Shifting to 2011 amid the turmoil both in Europe and the United States, the Asian economies have learned the lesson from that time.
In addressing the opening of the 43rd Asean Economic Ministers meeting in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesian Vice President Boediono observed that the economic conditions of all Asean member countries were still going strong during this tumultuous period.
Singapore announced this week that it had dropped its growth projection for the year from a previously estimated 7 percent to between 5 and 6 percent. This coincided with its projection of a drop in non-oil exports to between 6 percent and 7 percent from an earlier prediction of between 8 percent and 10 percent, however there is no panic in Asean. Of all the Asean member states, Singapore is the most export dependent due to its small domestic market.
The real story behind Asean confidence, however, is the growing trade within the region. Tariffs for trade for goods within the Asean region have already been reduced 99 percent in preparation for the coming of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The population of the AEC will be about 600 million at that time, as well.
Further work needs to be done such as implementing all of the resolutions within each country , with service industries being a particularly troublesome sector for several countries.
Foreign direct investment continues to move to Asean and progress is being made on the customs front as well as in connectivity across the region. Cross-border investments within the AEC also need to be improved.
If there are dramatic drop-offs in exports to the West that may push Asean countries to put a greater emphasis to the two large markets that sandwich Asean, India and China.
Top News from Southeast Asia
August 14 , 2011
These were the most newsworthy stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of August 6-August 13.