6. What do you like most about the ASEAN nations?
I’ve never had a boring trip when I’m visiting the ASEAN nations. Yes, it’s a growing nation that attracts lucrative foreign investment deals. However, for me, it’s the people and culture that I’m most attracted to. Which is also why the ASEAN Economic Community is an important milestone for the nation. One of the challenges with an integration like this is about how you tie countries together economically but respect the political and social differences that exist in a region that’s as diverse as the ASEAN region. I think this region with the population, with the growth in the middle class and the interest that people have in improving lends itself this kind of activity.
7. What is your opinion of ASEAN’s infrastructure today?
In Indonesia, 240 million people living across the archipelago of at least 9,000 islands had no access to electricity. Vietnam was recently trying for a loan to fund its infrastructure development, including a $100 million loan to a power transmission project, according to Reuters.
In Cambodia, access to power for its population remains a challenge. To meet the growing demand for electricity over the next 20 years, Cambodia needs to develop an adequate and sustainable source of electricity to: reduce its dependence on imported fuel/diesel oil (from Thailand and Vietnam); counter high fuel prices and tariff rates as a result of limited resources.
There is a lot of work to be done and tremendous support needed to grow ASEAN’s infrastructure. GE as an advanced technology, services and finance company, we are committed in taking on ASEAN’s toughest challenges.
8. What is the most important sector that ASEAN should focus on in the coming years to further stimulate growth and development?
It is absolutely pertinent to focus on developing the energy sector, as the population size in ASEAN increases. As we know, there are ASEAN countries that still lack access to power. Take for example, Malaysia, even though the peninsular side of the country has a stable power grid, there is still lack of access in the east side, particularly Sabah and Sarawak.
In Cambodia, access to power for its population still remains a challenge where only 20 per cent of households have access to electricity. In Indonesia, 240 million people living across the archipelago of at least 9,000 islands had no access to electricity
On the bright side, more countries in the region encourage the use of more efficient utility, municipal and industrial on-site power systems that are easier to finance, install and are more efficient and reliable than larger, centralised power plants.
9. What are your aspirations for the ASEAN nations?
The real GDP growth rate in ASEAN is projected to average 5.4 per cent per annum between 2014 and 2018. It is hard to ignore a region that shows so much potential and growth. Despite global volatility, the economies in the region have forecast long term GDP growth of five to six per cent. ASEAN is well positioned for growth with its increasingly affluent middle class and the massive push to build basic infrastructure. The demand is for services or solutions and this stems from a more sophisticated customer base in the region. It is good to see ASEAN grow to be the powerful region it is today.
10. The implementation of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is expected to transform ASEAN into a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy. What are your views on this implementation and how is GE is preparing for this integrated effort by the ASEAN nations?
We are confident that the regional integration through the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Connectivity initiatives will continue to fuel growth in the right direction. While setting arbitrary dates for achieving regional goals may serve its purpose, achieving regional integration requires stakeholders to continue their spirit and strong will to accelerate progressive momentum. We should think beyond 2015, to continue growth of trade and enable public-private partnerships to further enhance infrastructure development to serve the needs of the region.
Both businesses and the government need to work together to overcome barriers to investment, devise long term financing structures, prioritise projects and provide the information that investors need to evaluate Private Public Partnerships. I am confident that the implementation of AEC will benefit participating countries. It may take a while to see the results, but it will be good for the region.
Read about John Rice’s journey in Cambodia and his views on the country’s healthcare development here.