KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT DBS ASIAN INSIGHTS CONFERENCE ON 10 JULY 2015

Mr Peter Seah
Chairman, DBS Group Holdings

Mr Piyush Gupta
Chief Executive Officer, DBS Group Holdings

Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Former President of Indonesia

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


Thank you for inviting me to join you this morning.

This year we mark Singapore’s 50th year as a nation, with celebrations culminating in our National Day Parade in less than a month’s time.

As we commemorate this milestone, we reflect on Singapore’s developmental journey and remember the pioneers who made possible our achievements in 50 years of nation building. This is also a time to look forward to making Singapore an even better home for ourselves and future generations of Singaporeans.

From the earliest days of our history, Singapore has leveraged on our favourable location at the confluence of important trading routes joining Europe in the West, through India and Southeast Asia to China and Japan.

More important, Singapore is open to the world – be it in goods, services or talent. Our openness has allowed us to ride the wave of global growth over the decades and build a strong economy that supports our social and national development.

While the advanced economies of the US, Europe and Japan continue to be our important trading and economic partners, Asia’s economies have been growing in significance and will continue to do so into the future. 

Among Asia’s economic giants, China is already the world’s second largest economy. India is projected to become the third largest by 2030. While China’s growth has slowed in recent years, the economy is two and a half times larger today than it was just 10 years ago. Closer home, the ASEAN economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines are projected to grow by at least 4% per annum on average.

The Asian Development Bank projects that by 2030, the sum of the GDP of China, India and ASEAN in purchasing power parity terms could even exceed that of the US and Europe combined. Asia’s growth will continue to create significant opportunities for corporations, institutions and individuals in the region and beyond.

The financing needs of companies and individuals in Asia will grow as the region develops. Infrastructure investment needs alone are estimated to amount to almost 8 trillion US Dollars over the 10-year period to 2020. There is tremendous opportunity for financial institutions to help mobilise Asia’s large pool of savings and provide capital market solutions to meet these financing needs.

Asia’s growth will expand the ranks of the region’s middle class. In ASEAN, the middle class is projected to make up two-thirds of the population by 2030, compared to around a quarter in 2010. This will spur demand for a wide range of goods and services.  The demand for modern services, such as education, telecommunication and tourism, is likely to grow faster than the increase in income.

We can expect to see more international businesses expand their footprints in this part of the world. The growth of markets in the region also provides opportunities for home-grown entities - whether established brand names like DBS, SingTel and Keppel Corporation, or SMEs - to establish and grow their presence in the region.

I note that this conference will not only consider the bright prospects of Asia, but will also be looking into the challenges facing the region. Indeed, one must not assume that the path ahead will always be smooth sailing.

In spite of the fast-growing wealth in the region, people living in poverty in Asia account for more than forty percent of the world’s poor. Asia is experiencing rural-urban migration and an increase in the number of densely populated megacities at unprecedented levels. There is increasing recognition that environmental issues such as air pollution and other urbanisation related issues such as affordable housing, congestion and sanitation must be managed carefully for sustainable growth and development. Governance must improve and investments in social and public services stepped up in tandem with economic growth so that a broader base of the peoples in this region can experience improvements to their well-being and livelihood.

Regional connectivity can further unlock the potential of Asia but this involves coordination on cross-cutting issues such as development of intra-regional infrastructure and harmonisation of customs and other standards across countries. This will require much political will, especially given the different governance, economic and legal systems of the countries in the region, which are at various stages of development. Several integration efforts such as the development of an ASEAN Economic Community are making good progress and it is important that regional integration efforts continue to broaden and deepen.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We can expect the continued rise of Asia in a changing global economy and we must position ourselves to navigate the emerging landscape in the region.

Singapore is a natural gateway for international firms looking to access Asia, and for Asian businesses to access the world. Our financial ecosystem is diverse and robust.

The World Economic Forum has ranked Singapore second worldwide for financial market development. Singapore has for several years been ranked by the World Bank to be the best place in the world to do business. Many of the world’s biggest multinational firms have set up their corporate headquarters in Singapore.

But we must not be complacent. To ensure that we can continue to benefit from Asia’s growth and dynamism, Singapore must build on our competitive advantages, remain open and adaptable to change, and evolve to stay relevant to the region and the rest of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a pleasure for me to address you this morning. I congratulate the conference organisers for putting together a comprehensive programme aimed at helping participants gain useful insights into Asia and enabling them to better contribute to and benefit from the region’s development.

I wish you all a fruitful meeting. Thank you very much.