HANOI: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is in a "good position" to take advantage of the technological revolution, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Sep 12).
Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Hanoi, Mr Lee said the world is facing a "fourth industrial revolution" which is changing the way people and businesses function.
Developing new initiatives to prepare for the future economy is the way forward, Mr Lee said.
The Prime Minister said technology is transforming old tasks and shaping the way the world functions. In the meantime, businesses are changing the way they operate while workers are using technology to be more productive.
Technological breakthroughs will no doubt become faster and even more advanced, he added.
But the Prime Minister said he was confident ASEAN member nations can take advantage of the opportunities presented by this new environment.
STRONG FUNDAMENTALS, COMMITMENT TO ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
By collaborating as a 10-member grouping, Mr Lee said he believed ASEAN will be able to strengthen its position and deal with future challenges, especially when the open rules-based multilateral trading system comes under increasing pressure and threat.
For one, Mr Lee said, ASEAN possesses strong fundamentals as it will become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030 after the US, China and the EU.
Mr Lee said 60 per cent of ASEAN's combined 630 million population is under 35 years old, and the young and educated workforce is comfortable with new technology.
The digital economy is projected to grow to US$200 billion by 2025, he added.
He also said ASEAN is committed to further economic integration, an "important condition" for the fourth industrial revolution.
"It is about building networks, creating new synergies and staying connected. ASEAN member states have been working together towards the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025, so that ASEAN businesses can operate more seamlessly across the region," he said.
Mr Lee said it is important to involve businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, because they are the "backbone of our economies and the source of entrepreneurship".
Technology can benefit the ASEAN countries' businesses and people, Mr Lee said.
For example, ASEAN is working on streamlining e-commerce regulations to enable businesses within the grouping to trade more easily with one another, and a single online platform for cross-border customs cargo clearance will cut transaction costs, he said.
Singapore will also be hosting the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific trade event next month.
The major industrial fair will expose ASEAN firms to the latest industrial technologies, and manufacturers, technology providers and innovators can share their ideas and equipment.
This will enable ASEAN members to upgrade their manufacturing sectors, which is a key pillar of many regional economies, Mr Lee said.
The Prime Minister said the fourth industrial revolution is a "dynamic and continuing process"
"We cannot predict how exactly it will unfold, but I am optimistic about ASEAN’s future because ASEAN has its own competitive strengths. By pooling our ideas and resources and integrating our economies, we will be in a strong position to ride on this fourth wave to bring tangible benefits to our economies and our peoples."