Experts said on Monday at an international symposium hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila that Asia's remarkable economic recovery achieved and resilience to external shocks shown 10 years after the Asian financial crisis indicates the importance of regional economic cooperation and integration.
ADB invited several former finance or economics ministers from Asian countries most affected by the crisis to tell what lessons Asia has learned from the crisis and what perspective the continent is faced with after recovering from the crisis.
ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said at the symposium that the region is making a common agenda "to guide it more through a commitment to adaption, reform and preparedness."
He also said the leaders of the region have realized the importance to work together to build better resilience against shocks coming from outside as it was 10 years ago, when the Thai baht was devalued 20 percent overnight due to outside speculation and heavy foreign debts.
The symposium, named "Asia is Moving Forward: Ten Years After the Crisis," is focused on how Asia has once again emerged as the fastest growing economic entity in the world as its policy-makers have turned the crisis into an opportunity to usher in reforms.
"The crisis provided many lessons that led to crucial economic and financial reforms in the region. The policies adopted have made financial institutions stronger and more resilient to risks. Several sources of vulnerabilities, however, remain and governments in the region need to closely monitor the trend of macro financial variables," said Thai Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn, who was one of the invitees to the symposium.
ADB said Asian economy's growth in 2006 was "eye-catching" as Asian countries registered an average of 8.3 percent growth, the fastest since 1995.
ADB also praised China and India as economic powerhouses which have added a new dimension to regional and global growth.
"Since the turn of this century, our economies have re-emerged to be amongst the fastest growing in the global economy, amidst new challenges and fundamental economic and financial developments. Our steadfast reform and restructuring efforts have rewarded us with strengthened macroeconomic fundamentals and sound and stable financial systems," said Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor of the Malaysian central bank Bank Negara Malaysia.
Experts at the symposium also said Asian economies are forging closer regional economic cooperation through market-led and government driven initiatives, which is providing a new platform for regional growth.
"I think it is most appropriate that ASEAN+3 countries are striving toward financial cooperation at the regional level. Prevention is more important than cure," said Duck-Koo Chung, former Minister for Commerce, Industry and Energy, South Korea.
"We need a new regional financial architecture by speeding up the institutionalization of the Post-CMI (Chiang Mai Initiative) measures. A sense of complacency may bring about another crisis," he added.
But the experts also warned that Asia still faces a different set of challenges, such as massive capital inflows as opposed to outflows in 1997, impact of huge foreign reserves on regional currencies as well as global imbalances.
They called for development of stronger and better disciplined capital markets to meet the region's urgent demand for infrastructure and other investments which could reduce poverty, which stays at a high level in many Asian countries.