SINGAPORE, Aug 23 (Bernama) — Asean member countries have to intensify efforts to deliver their Asean Economic Community (AEC) commitments on schedule and to start working on future regional economic initiatives post-2015, says Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister & Minister For Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

In his address at the inaugural Network Asean Forum (NAF) here today, Tharman underlined four key priorities, each of which offered real prospects for improvement in the region’s growth.

“First, we have to open up further, and create conducive conditions for private investment to grow,” he said.

Tharman said unlike China, which was shifting from investment to consumer-driven growth, Asean’s challenge was opposite — to rebuild investment levels.

The deputy prime minister said the second priority was to invest in raising productivity.

“This is in fact a real opportunity in Asean. Productivity levels in Asean economies (excluding Singapore) range from five per cent to 35 per cent of the level in the US,” he said.

Tharman said the third priority in Asean was to ensure that it could take advantage of opportunities in China’s evolving economy.

He said China’s wages were rising rapidly, and will alter the Asian manufacturing supply chain.

“Some Asean economies with relatively low labour costs will benefit by taking over some segments of this supply chain,” he said.

At the same time, he said, there will be growing demand for higher value, more sophisticated products to cater to the rising middle class in China, even as Chinese producers themselves move up the same value curve.

Tharman said the fourth priority was to accelerate regional integration in Asean.

“We have huge opportunities to be developed through intra-Asean trade and investment.

The forum is organised by the Asean Business Council and CIMB Asean Research Institute. –Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah, BERNAMA