MANILA, May 22 (PIA) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently launched the book “Narrowing the Development Gap in ASEAN: Drivers and Policy Options” to promote awareness and understanding on the importance of narrowing the development gap (NDG) in ASEAN.

The launching of new publication on May 17 at the ASEAN Secretariat was attended by the diplomatic community, research institutions, and media.

With measures based on the universally accepted Human Development Index, the book states that the ASEAN development gap has been narrowing in the last decade, but more needs to be done.

“This new publication will enhance our understanding of the development gaps, provide an important context for decision makers to identify strategic needs of the region, and suggest policy options to narrow the development gap,” said Le Luong Minh, the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

A collaboration of ASEAN and Australia through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Programme Phase 2 (AADCP II), the publication communicates the latest findings on the status of progress in ASEAN’s efforts in narrowing the development gap between the newer four member states (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam or CLMV) and ASEAN-6.

“Australia’s longstanding aid program in this region is an expression of our support to ASEAN’s efforts to build a resilient – and equitable – ASEAN Economic Community,” said Dr. David Engel, Deputy Head, Mission of Australia to ASEAN.

ASEAN has made great strides towards establishing the ASEAN community. However, the potential uncertainties in ASEAN remain the current status of development gaps in the region.

“Differences in the level of development can cause inequality and limited opportunities to obtain benefits from an effective integration,” said Vu Dang Dzung, the Permanent Representative of Vietnam to ASEAN and Chair of the IAI Task Force.

“It is impossible to build a community if the gaps persist among the member countries,” he added.

“The ASEAN leaders understood the political, as well as the economic, importance both of building the CLMV countries’ capacity to take part in integrating the region and of regional integration and community building in advancing those countries,” said Ambassador Rodolfo C. Severino, head of the ASEAN Studies Center at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and former Secretary-General of ASEAN.

The development gap between ASEAN members was accounted for not only by the difference in per-capita income but, more significantly, in terms of human resources and institutional capacity,” said Severino.

Co-author Professor Mark McGillivray described the uniqueness of the first NDG book ever to have undergone the ASEAN process.

The book also serves as a point of reference for ASEAN and partners in understanding the disparities, and seeks to incite further deliberation on policy options to enhance inclusive and equitable growth in the region.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN had earlier launched the NDG Lecture Series.

While the book enunciates ASEAN’s efforts in narrowing the development gap and examines development strategies, the NDG Lecture Series explore salient issues in narrowing various forms of development gaps in ASEAN.

Convening a set of expert practitioners, academics, and decision-makers, the series create a venue to share theoretical and evidence-based observations, policy suggestions and practical solutions to addressing NDG issues.

The first NDG Lecture Series: Regional Overview and Policy Issues Facing CLMV growth was kicked-off by Dr. Kensuke Tanaka, Head of the Asia Desk of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre in March 2013.

The second NDG Lecture Series: Implementation of Regional Cooperation Initiatives to Narrow the Development Gap and the third NDG Lecture Series No.3: Defining the Gap, Zooming in on the Health Sector were held on 16 and 17 May 2013, respectively.

The third installment of the NDG Lecture Series, co-organsied by AusAID, tackled development gap indicators in Health as a case study together with health sector experts Dr. Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat of the World Health Organisation (Indonesia representative) and Dr. Ferdinal Fernando, Head of the Health and Communicable Diseases Division of the ASEAN Secretariat.

Strides have been made in narrowing the development gap in ASEAN, but regional integration could benefit from further well-targeted, concerted efforts. (www.asean.org)#