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Weekly NewsLetter
21 Febuary 2011
    Vol.1 No.5

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The Editor's Corner


Research and development in Asean
          This past week’s top news in Asean can be summarized in a few words: inflation, palm oil shortages and when will the central bank raise interest rates. Beneath those themes, however, there are currents of self-awareness and maturity developing in Asean countries as they perhaps sense that their region has a noteworthy role to play in the 21st century.

The more advanced Asean countries are striving to become more than low-cost assemblers of manufactured goods, whose blueprints are air mailed to them from the West. In many respects they resemble post-World War II Japan.

The key to advancing out of the “order-taker-assembler” role is education with a focus on research and development.

In November 2010, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations said it would collaborate on research by setting up thematic “research clusters” to tackle problems of the region, at the first conference on Pioneering Asean Higher Education Research Clusters held in Bangkok .

"There are many outstanding researchers from many ASEAN countries, but when looking into the research profile of each individual ASEAN country, it is noticeable that the impact factor is still nominal. This is the reason why ASEAN should cooperate to combine and to secure our efforts to strengthen our research visibility in the international community," Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said, opening the 26-27 November conference.

The project, which will be university-based, will be steered by Thailand as part of the region's move towards a single Asean community by 2015, which includes harmonisation of higher education.

Thailand already has expertise in this area, having set up national research clusters to strengthen its research base. Other Asean countries will coordinate harmonisation efforts on student mobility, higher education leadership development, and e-learning.

A major obstacle is big differences in research capability, from world-class in Singapore to almost non-existent in countries like Laos and Cambodia. Countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam fall somewhere in between.

A major issue is funding. "Member countries may have to contribute in proportion depending on their gross domestic product," suggested one conference speaker. Funds may also come from national research agencies to their own universities involved in regional clusters.”


Top News from Southeast Asia

February 21, 2011


These were the most significant stories reported by Asean Affairs during the week of February 12- 18.

Vietnam devalues currency
Vietnam devalued its currency to 9.3 dong against the US dollar on Friday for the third time in a year to address economic problems including double-digit inflation.

Thai bank warns of AEC competition  
The retail food, packaging and hospitality sectors stand to be the most affected by the arrival of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, says the Thai bank, Siam Commercial Bank.

Philippines economic index rises  
The Philippine economy would likely grow in the first quarter of this year, as the composite leading economic indicator (LEI) improved for a sixth straight quarter since the final three months of 2009.

New bridge to span Mekong 
The fourth new Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, across the Mekong River in Chiang Rai s, will further increase trade and travel not only between the two countries but also among the six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Transparency vital for Vietnamese investment 
Improving the transparency of the business environment at provincial levels was an important factor in attracting urgently needed investment, the vice chairman of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (VCCI) Hoang Van Dung announced at a press conference this week. Dung said transparency created trust among investors and reduced fees for searching for information.

Canadian trade mission arrives in Cambodia 
Billion-dollar firms, including Blackberry maker Research in Motion and aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, are among the commercial giants taking part in Canada's first trade and investment mission to Cambodia.

Anti-competition, anti-bribery laws to strengthen 
The cost of perceived non-compliance with competition and bribery laws in Asia is set to rise as regulators in the region adopt a more hawkish stance.

Thailand begins alternative energy island projects 
Thailand's first low-carbon and eco-friendly community is taking shape on Phaluai island in Surat Thani.

Japanese firms moving to Thailand 
Japanese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may relocate to Thailand over the next five years because of the stronger yen and promising and steady growth of the Thai automotive industry. The public and private sectors were urged to prepare for the movement, especially the rising demands of 250,000 to 300,000 skilled workers at different education levels from secondary school to vocational and engineering school.

Bourse mergers buzz in Asia 
The proposed takeover of Australia's ASX Ltd by Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) has ignited talks of possible mergers and acquisitions (M&As) among other Asian exchanges amid the growing threat of competition.

New deal proposed for exchange merger 
The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the Australian Exchange (SGX) have altered the terms of their proposed buyout in a bid to deflect the political flak the deal is catching Down Under.

Rising food prices brings poverty  
Rising food prices have pushed about 44 million people into poverty in developing countries since last June, the World Bank has warned.

Support needed to develop Vietnam green power  
The development of green energy to replace hydro- and thermal power requires strong policy backing, experts have said.

Indonesia imports Vietnamese rice 
Indonesia has bought 400,000 tons of 15 percent broken rice from Vietnam for March shipment after Thai exporters could not meet its loading requirements, traders said on Tuesday.

High food prices threaten Asia 
Surging food prices in India are forcing families to cut back on meat and vegetables. In Indonesia, they prompted the president to urge people to grow their own chili peppers. And in China, restaurant owners are feeling the squeeze.

Solar projects to increase Demco inventory  
The SET-listed contractor Demco Plc expects its construction backlog to expand to 6 billion baht this year after signing an 850-million-baht (US$27.4 million) solar cell construction deal with IFEC Green Power Plus, an alternative energy developer.

L’Oreal to build largest factory in Indonesia 
L’Oreal Group, the world’s largest cosmetics and beauty company, says it is building its largest factory in the world in Indonesia.

Singapore growth of 4-6 percent for 2011  
The Singapore economy grew by 14.5 percent in 2010, reversing the decline of 0.8 percent the year before.

Vietnamese investors look at Lao exchange  
Domestic investors are eager to obtain information about the new Lao stock market since the Laos Securities Exchange officially began trading on January 11.

Six percent Malaysian growth is “crucial” 
Malaysia is on the way to achieve its developed nation target after gross domestic product (GDP) growth exceeded 6 percent last year, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

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