Asean member countries need to collectively forge ahead to develop the 10-member regional bloc and maintain its centrality and unity to overcome regional challenges, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the 27th World Economic Forum yesterday.
The theme of the forum this year is ‘Asean 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and is taking place in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Mr Thongloun said that over the coming decades the world would grow rapidly amid the science and technology revolution and industrial innovation taking place, which would provide the basis for many countries to advance their socio-economic development.
But there could be challenges that may arise, such as conflicts, disparity in benefits from the advances and scientific developments between countries, groups of countries as well as between groups of people, the Lao premier told the forum.
The development gap and increasing cyber threats are other challenges that could become social problems if no solutions are found.
In the context of Asean, “Even though we have made efforts to advance together, we still see the challenges of having gaps in many areas,” Mr Thongloun said.
“Therefore, Asean should first continue to develop itself in accordance with the changing regional and international context while maintaining Asean centrality and unity in shaping the evolving regional architecture.”
To ensure that Asean collectively continues to grow, this can be done by implementing Asean priority programmes and the Asean community vision 2025.
These include the Asean Plan of Action on science, technology and innovation 2016-2025, which aims to build Asean as a region that is innovative, competitive, sustainable and economically integrated, along with implementing the Asean ICT master plan that focuses on building strong ICT infrastructure to create a favourable environment for trade, investment and entrepreneurship.
Bridging the technology gap towards ensuring the maximum benefit from the utilisation of ICT is also essential.
Additionally, the Asean Secretariat is conducting a study on Asean readiness for the fourth industrial revolution and this assessment will become important to help Asean establish more relevant policy directions.
Mr Thongloun added that Asean should also continue to empower businesses and the private sector to move forward together in the era of changes towards the fourth industrial revolution so that Asean will be able to compete with other regions more effectively.
Meanwhile, Asean businesses need to continue to adapt themselves to the new competitive conditions in this era of innovation and the fourth industrial revolution, the Lao prime minister said.
The public and private sectors need to work hand in hand for advancement and to overcome possible challenges, he added.
“In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, the public sector and the private sector are all in the same boat and Asean therefore is in the same boat,” he told the meeting.
In the context of Laos, to open up its economy and move towards international integration the government has focused on all efforts to improve and adapt itself in many ways. The key focuses are to transform and modernise by using modern technologies in all areas of development, production and services. This is being done in conjunction with the efficient use of resources and environmentally friendly development, as well as human resource development.
Given that Laos only has basic infrastructure and production facilities, Mr Thongloun said Laos needs to exchange lessons learnt and increase cooperation with various parties at the regional and international levels to enable the country to properly integrate with the region and the world.
In their speeches, Asean leaders agreed to deepen cooperation and integration to drive development in the region.