Asean Fund Aims to Boost Regional Economic Integration

In an effort to reduce, if not close, the gap between the dynamic region and major wealthy economies, nations throughout South-East Asia have combined resources to launch a fund of almost $500 million to build infrastructure.

According to finance ministers of Asean, the fund will support the building of roads, railways and other public projects, reducing the need for foreign assistance, and boosting regional economic integration with hopes of its completion by 2015.

Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general, said “Our community is now being built with speed. This is a milestone. The time for donations, the time for just gifts, is over. We have to be very innovative, we have to be very collaborative in our approach.”

The region has its fair share of famous buildings and businesses, and has seen impressive growth rates, but it lacks in access to major highways, railways, clean water and electricity.

Based in Malaysia, the Asean Infrastructure Fund will initiate with $485.2 million, with hopes of financing six projects every year. The fund predicts that by 2020, it will offer $4 billion in loans, and will be worth a total of $13 billion.

Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea have shown interest in joining the fund, but the region intends to keep the project internal, at least for now.