SINGAPORE (Dec 1): It’s been a good year for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as it celebrated its 50th anniversary in style and enjoyed an upside surprise to economic growth.

In the past month, a series of political conclaves saw the high and mighty of global politics presenting themselves at Asean-sponsored summits, in seeming recognition of Asean’s centrality in regional affairs.

Geopolitical risks within the region appeared to have abated as the world’s attention shifted northwards to the Korean peninsula where North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests proved to be far more alarming than any problems the Asean region faced.

Is Asean really on a sustained upswing?

We believe that, 20 years after its Asian Financial Crisis, Asean has a chance to once again establish itself as one of the premier poles of economic excellence in the world. It can even regain its position as one of the most popular destinations for foreign investment.

However, while the economic fundamentals are, on balance, supportive, it is not clear whether the potential political obstacles can be overcome — which means that, unless Asean political leaderships get their acts together, the region’s chance for glory might be missed.

There is little doubt that the Asean economies are strengthening. But if economics were all that mattered, Asean should be surging.

Sadly, Asean also needs certain political preconditions to enable its full potential to be realised.

So what more needs to be done for Asean to experience a surge in economic growth?

To find out more, subscribe to issue 808 of The Edge Singapore (week of Dec 4) which is out now. 

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