Asean needs strong will to set economic direction
By Azaraimy HH in Hanoi

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called for strong political will from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to wield influence to deal with the economic direction, both regionally and internationally.

His Majesty said this during the Asean Leaders Retreat yesterday in Hanoi.

His Majesty touched on the challenges faced by Asean in its efforts to realise the Asean Community and the need for Asean to address these challenges. These include the need to re-focus their efforts and to develop an effective strategy in dealing with its partners.

His Majesty also touched on the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity and the need for greater coordination at both the regional and national level to ensure that the relevant stakeholders do their efforts to effectively implement the Master Plan.

His Majesty also welcomed the idea of tapping new resources and innovative ideas to mobilise resources and expertise, especially through public-private partnerships.

Earlier, His Majesty and other Asean leaders agreed on the adaptation of the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity during the 17th Asean Summit.

The leaders of the 10-member regional block, whose vision is to move towards a single economic community, also adopted a Statement on Human Resources and Skills Development for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth and the Hanoi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of Asean Women and Children.

The leaders decided to establish an Asean Connectivity Coordinating Committee to coordinate and oversee the implementation of the Master Plan and gave their blessings for the effort to establish an Asean Infrastructure Fund.

These crucial decisions by the leaders will facilitate the enhancement of regional connectivity in every aspect including the wider East Asia region.

During the first day of the summit, the leaders also discussed important issues on Asean's internal cooperation and its external relations.

The agendas on the table were accelerating the process of Asean Community Building and effectively implementing the Asean Charter by enhancing connectivity. The discussion centred on broadening and deepening Asean's external relations and strengthening cooperation to effectively respond to emerging challenges, namely, post-crisis recovery and sustainable development, climate change, disaster management and infectious diseases.

After meeting Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam at the Government Office Building, His Majesty attended the Asean Leaders Working Lunch with the Asean-Business Advisory Council (ABAC), which was held at the National Convention Centre. At the working lunch, His Majesty and other leaders discussed a report presented by the ABAC Council on ways the private sector can contribute towards Asean economic integration, and the recommendations and updates of the activities of the council.

Later, His Majesty attended the official opening ceremony of the summit at the National Convention Centre, officiated by Nguyen Tan Dung.

Accompanying His Majesty were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister's Office, and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other senior officials.

Later in the afternoon, His Majesty attended the Leaders Retreat.

Reviewing the implementation of the Roadmap for the Asean Community and the Asean Charter, the leaders were gratified with the significant achievements made and agreed to further promote the "culture of compliance" to effectively improve the implementation of the agreements through systematic, efficient and creative measures, while paying due attention to supervision and evaluation mechanisms, enhancing coordination among Asean bodies together with promoting resources mobilisation and integrating regional agreements in national development plans.

At the 17th Summit, the leaders also underlined the importance of completing the legal framework provided for under the Asean Charter as well as strengthening effective and smooth operation of the new organisational structure.

The leaders also reviewed the implementation of decisions made at the 16th Asean Summit and reaffirmed the importance of continued cooperation for sustainable development as well as addressing emerging challenges. - Borneo Bulletin (28th October 2010)