The future of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) lies in the hands of the younger generation, says former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan.
It is the responsibility of the younger generation to fix the flaws, says Mr Surin. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
"It is the responsibility of the younger generation to fix the flaws that are in Asean. It is up to the younger generation to realise its prospects," he told a Hitachi Young Leader Initiative forum entitled "The Road Ahead: Asean's Role in Asia and the Global Economy".
Mr Surin said he perceives Asean as a young market still full of potential.
The consumers and workforces within the region are still young, there are tremendous natural resources, and the region is strategically located to serve as a link to East Asia.
"This region is full of challenges and potential. The younger generation will eventually have to face up to these challenges. Asean needs to connect with nearby regions for growth," Mr Surin said.
He also urged the younger generation to work on regional political security, economics and cultural affairs.
Asean has an estimated gross domestic product of US$2.4 trillion and intra-regional trade of $2.6 trillion.
Some 25% of Asean trade is with fellow member countries, and the proportion will only grow, said Mr Surin.
"Asean members should trade more, invest more, exchange more with _ and care more about _ each other," he said.
East Asian economies such as Japan and China will also help Asean to meet its growth potential.
Free-trade agreements have already been signed with Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Asean can learn more in terms of advanced levels of science, technology and innovation from its East Asian neighbours as well as their strong work ethic.
Asean benefits from economic growth worldwide, as the Japanese first came to the region 50 years ago to develop production bases and learning centres, Mr Surin added.
Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Transport Ministry's Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, told the seminar the northern high-speed rail segment _ Bangkok-Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai _ will be the first route completed.
Some 82% of the government's planned 2 trillion baht worth of infrastructure spending will be used for the rail link, he said.
"Right now, the nation relies too much on roads. The railway project will try to shift the population to public transport and serve as a catalyst for town and city development," said Mr Chula.
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Writer: Sarissa Indhakanok