ASEAN finance chiefs concluded their Laos meeting amid hopes of an improving economy despite challenges

SINGAPORE – A rebound in exports and tourism should help most Southeast Asian economies perform better in 2024 than in 2023, the region's top financial officials said at a meeting in Laos.

However, the outlook is clouded by „negative financial spillovers from geopolitical tensions, volatility in global commodity prices and weak economic growth in China,” noted a joint statement released at the end of the 11th ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting. On April 5.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong attended the two-day meeting aimed at enhancing Singapore's monetary and financial cooperation, building an inclusive and sustainable future and embracing the digital economy.

DPM Wong concluded a series of meetings with ministers and officials from the region to discuss how ASEAN countries can work together to implement sustainable and inclusive growth – from improving connectivity and payment links to accelerating financing for green transitions.

„One thing is clear – no ASEAN country can go it alone to achieve our common goals. Only by working together can we realize ASEAN's full potential,” he said in a social media post – gathering from the city of Luang Prabang, once the royal and religious center of Laos. held

„Through our joint efforts, ASEAN will be a bright spot in the global economy and bring benefits to all our people,” he added.

The ASEAN joint report noted that the region's economic performance was supported by increased investment activity amid strong domestic demand and moderate inflation.

However, structural issues including climate change, rapid digitization and an aging population will continue to shape economic growth across ASEAN.

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„Stronger regional economies are essential to navigate the challenging global environment by strengthening integration and connectivity in ASEAN,” it said.

ASEAN ministers and central bankers exchanged views with officials from the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), Asian Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund on the global and regional economic outlook, risks and challenges for the region.

Amro, in its January outlook report, expects growth of 4.9 percent in 2023, up from 4.3 percent.

Among other key issues, finance ministers and central bankers discussed the group's initiatives to increase financial integration and cooperation. They welcomed the progress of the joint report on the adoption and expansion of cross-border QR payment services among ASEAN member states.

The report noted that ASEAN is leading the integration of QR payment services globally with the recent launch of Cambodia-Laos, Cambodia-Vietnam, Singapore-Indonesia, Singapore-Malaysia and Laos-Thailand links.

The Working Group on Payments and Settlement Systems was asked to continue to identify challenges in the adoption and use of cross-border QR payments, develop plans to encourage adoption and improve cooperation between central banks and banking industry associations.

The launch of the Singapore-Malaysia cross-border person-to-person money transfer link, which enables instant money transfer through proxies such as mobile phone numbers, was also welcomed.

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