Page: Mekong News

Ecotourism Hub
   Eco Means of Travel
   KLIA-Leading in Eco-Standards
   KLIA-Next Generation Hub
   KKIA domestic hub
   Benchmark for National Parks
   What Ecotourism should be
Ecotourism Destinations | Malaysia
   Borneo Island | Ecotourism
   Imbak Canyon Conservation
   Colonial-styled Passenger Train
   Rhino Saved in dramatic rescue
   Climb Mt Kinabalu
   Challenges of scaling Mt Kinabalu
   Been there, done that
   Mt Kinabalu Climbathon
   Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
   Sandakan's Many Charm
   Coral Reef in Semporna
   Sipadan Island
   Dive Permit at Sipadan
   Scuba Diving
   Best Diving Spots
   Protecting Sipadan
   Mabul Island
   Semporna kidnap
   Pom Pom Island
   Rare Whale
   The Finest Forests
   Shark Fin Ban
   Casino stops serving Shark fin
   Airline joins Shark fin ban
   Kinabalu Park World Heritage
   A Memorable Visit to Bako
   Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
   Birding Havens in Sarawak
   Segon Cave and Bung Brunggu
   Borneo Convention Centre
   Biodiversity | Sarawak
   155,000ha allowed
   Singer Dayang to Help Orang Utans
   Ancient Croc Effigies
   Potential Ecotourism Icon
   Peninsular Malaysia | Ecotourism
   Taman Negara
   Living off the forest’s bounty
   350kg Tapir
   Endau Rompin National Park
   Endau-Rompin Location Map
   Kenyir Lake
   Kenyir Lake Triathlon
   Kenyir Lake DFZ
   Rebirth of Kenyir Lake
   Frasers Hill
   Royal Belum
   Leaders In Destinations
   Rakan Royal Belum
   Save Temenggor
   Lessons in the Forest
   Cameron Highlands
   Looking for the Silk King
   New Route
   Sepetang Serenade
   Turtle Sanctuary Site in Kemaman
   Heritage Sites Malaysia
   Lenggong Valley
   George Town and Malacca Heritage Sites
   Kinabalu Park Heritage Site
   Mulu Cave Geopark
   Danum Valley
   Maliau Basin
   Bid for Unesco listing
   Valley of Heritage
   Ramsar sites | Malaysia
   Ramsar sites in Sarawak
   Events and Festivals Malaysia
   Most Searched Travel Spots 2011
   Indigenous Malaysian Tribes
   Indigenous Peninsular Malaysia
   Danawan Island home to Sea Gypsies
Costa Rica
   Retire Here, Not There: Costa Rica
   Costa Rica's Unspoiled Coast
Ecotourism News
   Open Zoo
   Rainforest Rock Festival
   Great Wall in Gopeng
   Belaga braces for tourism boom
   Tourism drops
   Palazzo Park
   Rainforest World Music Festival
   Focus on eco-tourism
   Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre
   Ecotourism Spotlight Award
   Tourism News
   Art Tourism Hub
   Shopping Hub
   Art Tourism
Forest Reserve
   2010 Year of Biodiversity
   The Belum Forest Reserve
   Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre
   Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve
   Plant Mangrove Saplings in Port Dickson
   FRIM’s first research station
   FRIM declared heritage site
   Forest Reserve News
   South Peat Swamp Forest
   Forest Reserve to grow Oil Palm
   Save the Rain Forest
   Demystifying Forensic Forestry
   Forest Reserve in Pangkor
   Forest Research Centre - Sabah
   Forest reserve gazetted in Puchong
   Rape of Lenggong forest reserve
   Development project in Forest Reserve
   SAFE Project
   Saving Temenggor
   Selangor Peat Swamp
   Vanishing wetlands
   Before it is Too Late
   Tree Cover-up
   Forests to Tree Farms
   Forest by the Coast
   The Green Initiatives
   Ecologic Label
   Rebuilding the Green Concept
   Sabah Intensifies Green Effort
   Going Google can mean Going Green
   City of Kyoto from Car-Centric to Walking City
   Turning Consumers Green
   Penang mulling over No-car Zone
   3Rs among Malaysians
   Independent Power Producer
   Roof-top Secret Garden
   Population and Food
   Never Drink From Plastic
   Water Footprint
   Think water conservation
   Bakun Dam
   Turning to Eco-tourism
   Bengoh Dam
   Water Concern
   Tap Water
   Water Worries 1
   Mini-hydro Plant
   Mekong River
   Mekong News
   Water Challenge
   Looming Water Crisis
Sustainable Food Source
   Eating Insects
   U.N. Urges Eating Insects
   Insects may be the answer
   Eat Insects
   Meat is Not Green
   Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat
   Vegetarian Athletes
   Catherine Johnson, Vegan Cyclist
   Vegan Athlete of the Year 2013
   Totally Vegetarian
   Veganism and the Environment
   Mongolia Nomads
   Antibiotics in Feed
   Butter is back
Wildlife Malaysia
   Carcasses of Tigers, Leopards from Malaysia
   Malayan Tiger
   Tiger spotted on road
   Save the Tiger
   Rare Photo
   Tracing Malaysia's Tigers
   A New Hope For Malayan Tigers
   The Conservation Of Tigers
   Why Tigers Matter
   Tiger Ambassador
   White Tiger Cubs
   Siberian tiger
   Natural Habitat for Tigers
   King of the Jungle
   Permits for Zoo
   Rainbow Toad
   Orang Utan
   Leave orang utan alone
   Orang Utans
   Save Orang Utans
   Orang Utan Island
   Orang Utan Reserve in the Klang Valley
   Fireflies Sanctuary gazetted
   Firefly Festival Taiping
   Crocodile Farm
   Marine Ecosystem
   Semporna marine life
   Shark Sanctuaries
   Drop in Shark Catch
   No to Shark Fin Soup
   Stop Selling Shark Fin
   Dolphins in Port Klang
   Golden Arowana
   Symbol of Prosperity
   The Unsung Heroes
   Save Bees From Extinction
   When Bee Stop Making Honey
   Honeybees need Help
   Help our Disappearing Bees
   Bringing back Honeybees
   Dung Beetle
   Wild elephant
   Uneasy feeling
   Sea Anemone
   Human-wildlife Conflict
   Perhilitan sets Trap for Panther
   Wildlife Act
   Illegal Wildlife Traders
   Rafflesia and Conservation Efforts
   new Rafflesia species found
   Cengal Besar
   Migratory Birds
Climate Change
   New directions for the UN
   Canada withdrawing from Kyoto

Sept. 20, 2010


ASEAN has come of age as a market and producer

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is regaining its economic clout to the extent that it is now time for Japanese corporations to think about the group's 10 members not only as huge markets for their products but also as production bases.

A number of factors have contributed to the recent rise of ASEAN in the regional and global economic arenas: its geopolitical advantage of being adjacent to two economic behemoths (China to the north and India to the west), benefits accruing from a series of free trade agreements it has concluded with a number of trading partners since the 1990s, a combined population of 600 million whose personal consumption is on the rise, and a slowdown of the Chinese economy, which has suffered from the rising value of the renminbi currency and steep increases in labor costs.

The Asian Development Bank surprised economists and market observers alike when it predicted in July that ASEAN as a whole would achieve a robust economic growth of 6.7 percent this year, up 1.6 percentage points from the previous forecast in April. This is a remarkable figure by today's global standards, and not far behind the 9.6 percent and 8.2 percent expected of China and India, respectively.

The economic growth rate for Singapore this year is estimated at 12.5 percent, Malaysia 6.8 percent, and Indonesia 6.0 percent. Even Thailand, whose economy suffered after a violent confrontation between supporters and opponents of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra earlier this year, is likely to see 5.5 percent growth.

The history of ASEAN economies has had its ups and downs. During the 1980s, many Japanese, European and American corporations started investing in ASEAN-member production facilities — a major shift from the trend of concentrating investments in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, collectively known as newly industrialized economies. New plants were set up in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, one after another, ushering in an age of full-fledged ASEAN economic growth for the first time since its inception in 1967.

Following the Plaza Accord of September 1985, which pushed up the value of the yen currency, Japan's export-oriented firms started shifting their production bases to ASEAN- member nations, thus relieving those countries, except Indonesia, of trade deficits as oil prices plummeted.

The remarkable prosperity of ASEAN came to a sudden halt with the currency crisis that hit the region in the summer of 1997. One of the factors behind the crisis was that much of the huge investments in new factories had come in the form of foreign currencies from outside sources such as financial institutions in Japan, Europe and the U.S. That's because the area did not have a fully developed financial market for raising funds domestically.

Although a huge increase in imports of materials and components for these new plants led to trade deficits in ASEAN countries, the value of their currencies remained high. It was the massive sale of the Thai baht by foreign funds that began the collapse of ASEAN's economy.

ASEAN-member nations learned valuable lessons from the 1997 crisis. Subsequently they made it their top priority to export more than they imported to accumulate foreign exchange reserves. China at present ranks first in foreign currency reserves with $2.450 trillion; while Japan is second with $1.060 trillion, Singapore eighth, Thailand 12th and Malaysia 13th, each with more than $100 billion. These reserves have not only stabilized the regional economy but also encouraged foreign funds to invest more in the region.

The current ASEAN economic boom is reflected in booming sales of vehicles and other expensive consumer products. Although the car market in the area remained somewhat sluggish in 2009, total sales came to 1.9 million vehicles, not far behind India's 2.26 million vehicles. During the first half of this year, motor vehicle sales in the six principal ASEAN nations shot up by 41 percent over the same period for the previous year (1.18 million). Some have even predicted that the number for the whole year will reach a record 2.5 million vehicles.

Motorcycle sales in Indonesia during the first half of this year rose 31 percent over the same period of 2009 to 7.6 million units, prompting Honda to raise production capacity there from 3.3 million units to 4 million units a year. Yamaha went from 3 million units to 3.6 million units. Sales of flat-screen televisions, air conditioners and refrigerators throughout ASEAN were also up nearly 50 percent in the January-June period from the same period of 2009.

Even though China's per capita gross domestic product has risen to $3,700, topped only by Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand among ASEAN countries, ASEAN countries still offer lower production costs than China, especially with regard to labor. ASEAN offers a large labor force, as Indonesia has a population of 237 million and the Philippines, 88 million. Particularly low wages are available in Laos and Cambodia, broadening choices for enterprises outside the region that are contemplating off-shore production.

China is trying to lure factories to inland areas where wages are still low, but these areas have a transportation disadvantage. India has a young labor force, but it will probably take 10 to 15 years before India's electric power supply, roads and port facilities compare with those of ASEAN countries.

Above all else, the ASEAN region is ideally situated geographically to export manufactured goods not only to the neighboring big markets of China and India but also to North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

At present, ASEAN is working with the Asian Development Bank to build a highway crossing the Indochinese Peninsula from the Vietnamese city of Da Nang on the South China Sea coast to Myanmar's port city of Mawlamyaing facing the Indian Ocean. When completed, this highway will dramatically improve the efficiency of transporting goods manufactured within ASEAN to Europe and the Middle East, since they will no longer have to go through the Strait of Malacca, long a bottleneck for Chinese exporters.

It is high time that Japanese manufacturers take a fresh look at the geopolitical advantages of the ASEAN region, where people in the middle-income brackets as well as their spending are ballooning. The region offers opportunities comparable to those of China and India.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the September issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

Ecotourism Hub
Ecotourism Destinations | Malaysia
Ecotourism News
Wildlife Malaysia
Glossary Ecotourism