Stars rising in the East

On April 3, 2012 the leaders of the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – gathered in Phnom Pen, Cambodia for the 20th ASEAN Summit. A declaration was adopted with a rather suggestive title: “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny.” A Community of around 600 million people, is supposed to be built by 2015, based on values such as integration, inclusive economic growth and prosperity. In spite of the inevitable spill-over of the global crisis, ASEAN is expected to be a driving force of recovery due particularly to growing domestic demand, relatively low unemployment, continued capital inflows and public investment. There are open challenges of course: Will leaders be able to support stable, non-inflationary growth? Will they succeed in redistributing wealth and reduce poverty and corruption? How will they manage the relationship with neighboring China? The ASEAN Economic Community, which aims to create common markets of goods and services, may be the star of the future, something much more sound than the heterogeneous BRICS. Leaders of the top five ASEAN countries – expected to grow an average of 5% this year – have a lot in common, even in their to-do list. Resiliency is more then ever their key word, as a driver of creative, positive and optimistic societies. They have a say which is worth listening to.