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First-Quarter Economic Upturn
Special> First-Quarter Economic Upturn
UPDATED: April 28, 2009 NO. 17 APR. 30, 2009
CRISIS FOCUS: Asia's Voice

It is an accepted fact that the emerging Asian economies are reeling from the swirling global financial storm, although their woes remain relatively shallow. From a long-term perspective, the stagnation in the Western world raises questions about Asia's future. So what are the biggest challenges facing Asia in response to the crisis? How can the region seek a return to fast-track growth? Fidel Valdez Ramos, Chairman of Board of Directors of the Boao Forum for Asia and former President of Philippines, discussed these issues during the forum's annual conference on April 17-19 in Hainan Province. Edited excerpts follow:

The financial chaos is exacting a heavy toll on emerging Asian economies via weakening exports, but its actual impact depends largely on how the world can effectively respond to the crisis. Generally, emerging Asia is showing the symptoms of Western ailment in the following three ways:

First, the stock market bust in the United States, the UK and Japan has triggered a domino effect, sending the stock markets of some emerging countries into an abyss.

Second, the financial chill has found its way to the real sectors, such as exports, investments, jobs and people's income. The most vulnerable are countries that rely on exports for growth, such as China. The poor countries will also suffer as developed countries pare down their assistance budgets.

Third, the developing world now accounts for a large population of migrants around the world. If they lose jobs and come back home, the social instability and poverty in their home countries will intensify.

But the crisis also offers an opportunity for us to revalue, restructure and reform the world and its regions. As concerned citizens of the international community, we should not let our neighbors fall down. In hard times like this, cooperation is the way out. There must be a safety net to provide a softer landing for declining economies. So I strongly suggest that emerging countries join their hands in fighting the crisis. For example, we can pursue more cross-regional investments and multinational cooperation on common security issues.

To tide over the downturns, it is also necessary for Asian countries to strengthen collaboration in a number of fields, including water resources, the environment and food safety. The importance of cooperation will be particularly felt when we face challenges such as conflicts, post-conflict building, transportation, public welfare and contingency plans to deal with epidemics like AIDS, SARS and bird flu.

It is notable that most of Asian economies have maintained good fundamentals. For example, China's massive government stimuli are taking effect to prop up the economy, which will also inject steam into other countries. I hope China can become an enabling engine driving up Asian growth. Moreover, big developing countries like China and India should play a bigger role in international financial organizations so as to shape a more balanced international financial system.

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