Ten countries, several ethnicities, dozens of fables, scores of cultural symbols, hundreds of places to visit and thousands of delicacies to relish – diversity flourishes across this region of over 628 million people. The Sunday Times highlights five facts each about the regional grouping’s members.
Originally built in the third century at the same time Vientiane was established, That Luang stupa is the symbol of Laos.
It was built to house the bones of Lord Buddha, but the original structure was renovated on the orders of King Saysetthathirath when he moved the Lao capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1560. The stupa is one of the world’s must-see Buddhist monuments.
While Vulcan Point may no longer be the largest specimen of its kind, it is still a marvel of nature to experience. Vulcan Point is an island in a lake on an island in a bigger lake.
The lake surrounding Vulcan Point, Taal Lake, is a volcanic one formed after eruptions sealed the water body. After centuries of rainfall, it slowly desalinated and become host to a plethora of species that slowly adapted to the change in the salinity of the water. The volcano holding all of this, the Taal Volcano, is the second-most-active volcano in the Philippines.
The 1,788-room Istana Nurul Iman, spanning a mind-boggling 120ha, is the world’s largest residential palace, housing the Prime Minister’s Office and the seat of the government of Brunei.
It also has a mosque that can hold 1,500 people, five swimming pools and even a helipad.
FAST FACTS ABOUT ASEAN@50
Asean has the biggest population of any geopolitical bloc – totalling more than 628 million people (nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population).
Its member states have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion (S$3.4 trillion), up from US$1.3 trillion seven years ago.
The Asean economy is the third largest in Asia and the sixth largest in the world, with the regional GDP growth rate higher than the global average.
More than half of its population is under 30 years old.
There is a wide disparity in population size. It ranges from 417,000 in Brunei to 255 million in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s GDP is still three times larger than the combined GDP of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The country’s GDP is also close to the GDP of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore combined.
The country with the highest percentage of exports going to Asean markets is landlocked Laos (65 per cent). In second place is Myanmar, which sends 42 per cent of its total exports to Asean countries. The rest of Asean are at around 25 per cent.
The top exporter to Asean markets is Singapore, followed by Malaysia and Thailand. Despite being the bloc’s largest economy, Indonesia ranks fourth as an exporter to Asean.
Thailand remains the manufacturing superpower in South-east Asia, with more than 420,000 manufacturing establishments. Cambodia has 71,000 establishments, Vietnam 63,000 and Indonesia 24,000.
There are 227 companies in Asean with revenues over US$1 billion.
There is a wide disparity in income per capita, ranging from US$1,246 in Myanmar to US$52,000 in Singapore.
Overall competitiveness has been improving. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, Singapore ranks No. 2. Five others – Malaysia (No. 18), Thailand (No. 32), Indonesia (No. 37), the Philippines (No. 47) and Vietnam (No. 56) – figure in the top half of the index.
Within Asean, Malaysia sends the highest number of students (53,000) to international locations outside the region, followed by Vietnam (52,000) and Indonesia (33,000). Malaysia also receives the largest share of inbound international students, followed by Singapore.
Malaysia and Thailand each receives significantly more international tourists (27 million and 24 million respectively) than their next Asean peers.
Disputes over control of parts of the South China Sea remain a cause of worry. Improving infrastructure and IT capability are key challenges.
TOPICS: ASEAN, ASEAN 50, WEB SPECIALS
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