APEC needs to keep its economies ahead of the curve
18 Nov 2020
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperations (APEC) needs to keep its economies ahead of the curve in order to stay relevant.
APEC Policy Support Unit director Dr Denis Hew said this could be done by addressing some of the emerging challenges that the region could face in the next 20 to 30 years.
“Not just looking at the Covid-19 pandemic, but also looking at the issues such as the emergence of different types of digital technology, artificial intelligence.
“We also have demographic challenges with many economies facing an aging population, which means a reduction of the labour force, as well as sustainable economic growth. Many APEC economies are middle income economies,“ he said during a virtual briefing on the APEC Regional Trends Analysis today.
According to a recently published APEC Regional Trend Analysis, the shift towards digitalisation was inevitable, so economies should allocate the funds needed to build more reliable technological infrastructure.
APEC economies should also reskill or upskill their population with digital skills to participate in the economy and to re-ignite innovation towards higher productivity and greater economic output, added the report.
Meanwhile, Hew also noted that there were concerns on the middle-income trap among APEC economies and this could be addressed by promoting innovation and looking at the skill sets of the workers to ensure sustainable economic growth.
He added that there were some early signs of economic recovery in APEC economies, particularly those that were adopting digital economy.
“During this period of time, many of us are using different types of digital platforms for work, as well as for education, and online grocery shopping. One of these sectors where applications of different types of digital technology will see a strong recovery,“ he added.
Meanwhile, APEC Secretariat executive director Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Sta Maria said there was a lot of political will among leaders to collaborate to ensure economic recovery among APEC economies.
With the ministers meeting virtually, she said a clear signal was sent or the willingness to share best practices on how each of the economies have been dealing with the pandemic and how collaboration rather than competition “would help us or get us out of these difficult times.”
On the devastated tourism sector, Rebecca said a number of initiatives were being discussed by the APEC Tourism working group to revive the industry, including through capacity building.
“We suspect in all probability that it (tourism sector) would be the last to recover. How do we build capacity during this period when there are no tourists coming in and what do we do to prepare ourselves for the return of tourism (activity),” she added.
Rebecca said the APEC Tourism working group was putting in efforts in, among others, maintenance of facilities, building collaboration with organisations such AirBNB to work with smaller rural communities to upgrade their facilities, and preparing tourism workers to engage with tourists.
“Works are also being done on travel bubbles (and) what kind of health protocols need to be put in place.
“Singapore is at the forefront of this (effort), working with different APEC economies to see how we can have specific health protocols to facilitate business travels and then look for lessons learned from this bubble so that we can take it further,” she added.