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The ADB estimates that if left unaddressed, climate change could reduce the region’s GDP by 11% by the end of the century .

South East Asia Needs to Tackle Environmental Challenge to Grow
Photo: GettyImages
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) says that South-east Asia needs to invest USD210 billion – 5% of projected GDP – a year over the next decade in infrastructure just to maintain current levels of growth .  
And this challenge is compounded by the environmental threat facing the region.
The ADB estimates that if left unaddressed, climate change could reduce the region’s GDP by 11% by the end of the century . 
ASEAN member states will need to be increasingly focused on smoothing the path for greater private sector investment in sustainable infrastructure financing.  
The final challenge is to create a borderless digital ecosystem that spans the region. Digital technology has the potential to play a key role in driving the development of new industries and growth. But the region has to agree on a common set of standards for data handling and digital commerce, which will encourage businesses to share data, to realise that potential.
Different digital regulatory regimes across South-east Asia limit the ability of both local firms and multinationals to reap the full benefits of economies of scale, weakening its attraction as an investment destination. 
The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 is the central node to enhance data management, facilitate harmonisation of data regulations among ASEAN Member States and promote intra-ASEAN flows of data. 
However, this is largely a self-run programme for member countries, so ASEAN nations will need to maintain discipline for its momentum to build. The impetus for doing so will only become more pronounced as 5G begins to be rolled out across South-east Asia in 2020.
Tim concluded: “South-east Asia has achieved a significant amount in recent decades but there is more that can be done to further build connectivity. Challenged by trade barriers, infrastructure gaps and a burgeoning digital economy, ASEAN needs to make tough political choices in order to create a borderless and sustainable block that will push beyond average growth levels.” 
2020 is the big year for Vietnam’s foreign policy as the country has launched its ASEAN Chairmanship. With the theme of “Cohesive and Responsive”, Vietnam has unveiled 5 top priorities: firstly, strengthening ASEAN unity and solidarity, reinforcing ASEAN centrality and promoting its active contribution to regional peace and stability amid strategic complexities; secondly, intensifying ASEAN’s economic integration and connectivity, better equipping ASEAN economies and its people to adapt to the dynamic changes from the forth Industrial Revolution and the digital economy; thirdly, promoting ASEAN identity and awareness about the ASEAN Community among the people; fourthly, enhancing ASEAN’s global partnership for peace, stability and sustainable development; and lastly, increasing ASEAN’s institutional capacity and effectiveness. 
By the goals, Vietnam aims to solidify the intra-ASEAN coalition in the context of the trade war is still complicated and unexpected in order to ensure the stability of the region’s multilateralisation, free trade and the multilateral commercial system.

DIEP NGUYEN