Welcome to Singapore Summit 2018.
September 15 marks the 10th anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers that triggered a ripple effect that almost destroyed the global financial system. Ten years on, the major economies of the world have since recovered, some would say quantitatively but not qualitatively. The 2008 global financial crisis created a deep impression across the world, affecting attitudes towards capitalism and free markets. While the economic recession may have receded, the recession in confidence in liberal capitalism remains. Belief in free markets has plummeted, paving the way for populism and protectionist sentiments across developed countries. State-led economic and development models now seem more attractive.
When we met last year, North Korea’s missile launches captured the world’s attention and reminded us that geopolitical tensions were very much alive. Meanwhile, the geopolitical landscape in Asia continues to change, creating new risks and opportunities. The United States remains an anchor in the region, though the nature of its standing in the region could change. China’s economic rise also affords a larger military, with countries in the region trying to have a grasp on its emerging ambitions. While there are existing regional architectures for countries to engage with each other on geopolitical and security challenges, there remain concerns if they would be sufficient and effective in preventing conflict and in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Security considerations aside, Southeast Asia remains an economically vibrant region. By 2020, the region is expected to have a middle-class of about 400 million people. This new middle-class, together with the rapid adoption of digital technologies, creates new possibilities. Businesses new and old alike are creating digital platforms to develop new markets and reach new consumers. The result is an exciting region full of opportunities for businesses and consumers, continuing with its growth trajectory.
While advancements in technologies will continue to present new opportunities for businesses, there are also wider concerns on the implications. The products and services of the Big Tech companies have brought great convenience to our lives, and they have become integral to how we interact with each other. In recent times, their activities have become subjected to greater scrutiny given how the handful of companies can control economies and shape opinions. Still, Big Tech themselves are also working to restore trust with their users. These are important questions for companies, regulators, consumers and advocacy groups to address as we navigate the new digital environment.
If there is one thread that flows through the topics, it is that we have to constantly reconsider the assumptions that we hold, view issues with fresh eyes and look again at the opportunities around us. Singapore Summit 2018 will provide the opportunity for us to discuss these issues, and I look forward to having the same robust and thoughtful discussions when we meet in September.
Ho Kwon Ping
Banyan Tree Holding