The Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (Asean) single market idea is taking shape and will continue to consolidate to facilitate free movement of goods and services, and people within the region, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

However, it would not be like the European Union model which practiced a constitutional kind of governance, Najib said during a dialogue with participants of the two-day Asean 100 Leadership Forum 2010 here Friday.

“We will together work through the Asean mechanism by moving on the agenda of Asean as a economic business community. I see that taking place,” he added.

Najib said there was also greater connectivity within Asean, refering to the Economic Transformation Programme which has identified the need for a high-speed train to operate between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

“In fact, we have also commissioned a team to study the master plan on Asean connectivity which will be discussed in Hanoi soon and it’s something that will be implemented in the next 10 to 20 years,” he added.

Najib advised the younger Asean generation to adopt the Asean thinking in order to develop the grouping’s vision to become a stronger and conducive community.

“We should encourage our future leaders to get to know one another, to be familiar with Asean countries and to develop their network, so they will feel comfortable later on when they resume the leadership role,” he added.

To a question from the floor on what could go wrong for Asean as a regional grouping, he said: “If we pander too much to domestic pressure and we don’t resort to mechanisms to resolve conflict between us, or to resolve territorial or maritime boundary claims, I think that is going to be quite challenging for us.

“Some of them are legacy issues, some issues are still unresolved, but we have to decide on a proper mechanism either a political compromise or resort to arbitration in international courts,” Najib said.

On affirmative action and the New Economic Model, Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said the model recognised the need for affirmative action policies but the means to achieve the target has been redefined in order to meet the challenges of the new era.

“My late father (Tun Abdul Razak Hussein) was the architect of affirmative action. I agree that it is not healthy to see the majority having the least share in the nation’s economic pie.

“However, we need to re-examine our means of achieving our targets in the new age while looking into equitable distribution of wealth.

“In other words, we need to distribute wealth in a fairer and more equitable manner,” Najib said.

For instance, he said in July, the government announced that students who obtained 9As and more in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia public examination would automatically obtain scholarships from the government, irrespective of race.

“However, we will also consider students who come from poor backgrounds, who obtained 6 As as we believe they do have the potential to produce results as good as their urban friends only if they had better means,” Najib said. (PNA/Bernama)