The level of awareness about the Asean Community differed from city to city in Indonesia. Jakarta scored the lowest, with only 29% of respondents claiming that they have heard about the Asean Community. The survey also showed that 58% of the respondents were not aware of the Community.

Results on the awareness of the Bali Concord II were worse. Only 16% of respondents have heard or read about it. Meanwhile, 44% of respondents have heard or read about the Asean Charter.

Respondents had at least a diploma qualification, with the majority aged between 18 and 34. They represent the population with basic knowledge on the region.

Participants were asked if they agreed with the following statement: “Over the last two years, it has become more difficult for companies to hire talented foreign citizens because of stricter visa requirements and it had a negative impact on their ability to innovate.”

Table 2 lists the perception of the private sector’s ability to innovate as a result of various regulations on foreign talent in selected Asian countries. India had the most respondents who agreed with the statement. In November 2010, India imposed an annual salary floor limit of US$25,000 for full-time foreign employees, suggesting that only foreigners at the senior management level can be employed.

Malaysia and Singapore rank below India, with 64% and 63% of respondents respectively agreeing to the premise of the question. Malaysia has a similar objective as India, giving priority to foreigners at senior management level and protecting industries that employ largely Malaysians, such as small scale textile businesses and cyber cafés. The Singapore government is known to be liberal in the employment of foreign talent. However, it has taken measures to reduce the number of foreign talent employed after the General Election in May 2011. This is in response to public disapproval of its immigration policies for the highly skilled.

Source: World Bank (originally extracted from International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2010).

Note: N/A=not available
Source: World Bank.

Access to electricity supply differs considerably within Asean, ranging from 13% to 100%. Residents in Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have high access to electricity, reaching 90-100% of the population. Although Vietnam only opened up its economy in the 1990s, it has achieved success in its rural electrification project.

Despite achieving six per cent average growth since 2005, Indonesia’s population has only moderate access to electricity. An expanding middle class and increase in business activities have caused demand for electricity to increase more than its supply. The country with the least access to electricity is Myanmar. However, Myanmar’s expansion of electricity supply has been substantial in the past few years. The Asian Development Bank estimated that 25% of residents have electricity as of 2011.

Countries can tap into their natural resources such as coal (Indonesia), oil and gas (Myanmar) and water (Laos) to increase access to electricity for its population. Renewable energy should be considered as well.

Table 4 shows the relative importance of trade in services to each country. Singapore ranks highest among Asean countries. This result is not surprising, since the country focuses on higher value-added service as the main driver of growth. Significant contributions of service exports include trade from the finance and insurance industry and the transport and communications industry.

On the other hand, Vietnam’s key service export industries include tourism, a developing transport sector (which includes air transportation and shipping) and a growing finance sector. The finance sector provides credit to support the growth of industries in Vietnam. Its service imports include the insurance and freight for imported goods.

For the Philippines, growth in its business process outsourcing (BPO) industry contributed to its service exports. Within Asean, many countries have complementary strengths in different service areas.

Source: Asean official website.

Source: Asean official website.

Figure 1 displays the total exports of all Asean countries to different destinations in 2011. Trade within Asean countries consists of approximately a quarter of all exports. This is followed by China, the EU, Japan, the US and Hong Kong. For Malaysia and Singapore, the top export destination apart from Asean is China. The top export partner for Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines is Australia. On the other hand, Australia was the top export partner of Cambodia and Laos1.

Asean has diversified exports, ranging from motor vehicles to agro-based products. Electronic integrated circuits and petroleum are the top export products of Asean. Some products rely heavily on one export market. For example, more than 95% of Asean’s natural and modified natural polymers are exported to the EU. One hundred per cent of Asean’s rye in the grain is exported to the US.

Intra-Asean visitors account for 46% of total tourists in Asean in 2011. This is followed by EU-25 and Australia, accounting for nine per cent each. Australia, South Korea and Japan have five per cent each. Tourists visit different Asean countries for a variety of reasons. This includes business trips, visiting family and friends and exploring the culture and heritage of the region.

The performance of individual Asean countries is not uniform. Malaysia is one of the world’s top 10 destinations, attracting 25 million tourists in 2011, while Indonesia, despite having the largest population in Asean, only attracted eight million tourists. It is expected that the implementation of the Asean Tourism Market Strategy (2012-2015) will improve the competitiveness of tourism in the region.

1) The FDI is on a net basis, and computed as follows: Net FDI = Equity + Net Inter-company Loans + Reinvested Earnings.
2) Singapore's data for 2011 excludes inter-company loans.
Source: Asean official website.

The table shows the FDI in each Asean country in 2011. Singapore captured the highest amount of FDI at US$64bil, or 56% of total FDI in Asean. Singapore is the Asia-Pacific headquarters for many foreign companies, and its low corporate tax of 17% also attracts foreign companies to invest in the country.

Indonesia’s burgeoning middle class is attracting foreign companies to invest in the country. It received US$12bil in 2011, the second highest among all Asean countries. Although Malaysia ranks third in FDI receipts, it is competing with other emerging economies such as Indonesia for FDI. For this reason, FDI into Malaysia might fall in 2013 and 2014.

The slow growth experienced by the US and Europe are encouraging many companies to invest in Asia.

From Asean Community in Figures 2011.

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