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Seminar on “Economic Outlook and Key Policy Challenges in Emerging Asia”

REGIONAL ECONOMIC STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 – The OECD Development Centre recently released the latest issue of its bi-annual flagship publication – Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India. The report comprises several elements, including: overall macroeconomic assessment of Asia; major issues facing the region; and policy recommendations for emerging economies. In order to share the findings of the Outlook, The Regional Economic Studies Programme at ISEAS organised a seminar with Mr Kensuke Tanaka and Ms Prasiwi Ibrahim from the OECD Development Centre as the key speakers.

Following the introductory remarks by Ms Ibrahim on the research methodology, Mr Tanaka began his presentation by talking about the medium-term growth projections for twelve Asian economies. With the overall growth rate bound to reach 5 per cent in the next five years, thanks to robust consumption expenditure, Asia is set to be the engine of global economic growth. Turning to other market trends, Mr Tanaka said that, for the region as a whole, over the past year, inflation and interest rates had not fluctuated dramatically – another sign of sound growth.

Although Mr Tanaka painted an optimistic picture of the sample countries, he did elaborate on three significant challenges that lay ahead. First, a proper, uniform regulatory framework needs to be developed for efficient operation of FinTech companies in the region. Second, ASEAN economies must work together to overcome the impact of the ongoing trade war between China and the US. And third, in light of recent calamities, all countries have to come up with effective disaster mitigation strategies. Not paying heed to any of these risks could adversely affect the nations’ growth trajectories.

Drawing the audience’s attention to the thematic focus of the Outlook report, Mr Tanaka emphasised the importance of incorporating digitalisation among the emerging economies by enhancing the existing information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. This would generate productivity gains, particularly in the services sector. The last topic Mr Tanaka touched upon was “Smart Urban Transportation” in the region. Given the traffic congestion and pollution woes in major Asian cities, upgrading public transport systems is the need of the hour, he added.

The seminar was 90 minutes long, and was attended by an audience of 30 people, including research scholars, students, members of the media and the public. Mr Tanaka and Ms Ibrahim also answered their questions on an array of topics, including: the key assumptions used in calculating the projection figures; consideration of data privacy in ICT infrastructure; the growing protectionism in different parts of the world; and the impact of market pessimism.