Singapore—Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh made a forecast of what lies ahead for the year in a speech delivered at the Bank of Singapore’s Beyond 2020 event on Monday (Jan 13), saying that both positives and negatives are in store for this year. An excerpt of his speech was published in The Straits Times (ST).
First, he mentioned the three positive trends he has observed and expects to continue. One, that Asia has continued to grow economically. Mr Koh believes that it’s just a matter of time until the Chinese economy will be bigger than that of the United States, given that its six percent growth rate has far outpaced that of the US and the European Union.
He added that he does not believe there will be a war between the US and China.
Mr Koh also cites the economic growth of ASEAN countries, since as a bloc, the ASEAN economy is the fifth-largest in the world.
Secondly, he mentions the advances gained by multilateralism and free trade, despite the protectionism embraced by the US. Mr Koh calls this struggle “one between light and darkness,” with the side of light winning.
The final positive trend he cites is increasing empowerment of women, which has meant less violence and sexual harassment against them. “Women’s rights are human rights. The struggle by women for equality and justice is the longest struggle in the history of human rights,” he said.
This morning the Bank of Singapore invited me to speak to their annual conference for their clients. The theme of my…
Mr Koh went on to list the negative trends he has observed, the first being the ongoing conflict between the US and China. “The new paradigm of US-China relations is a comprehensive contest between the two countries for power and influence,” he said.
He added that he does not see improvement in the relations between the two biggest economies in the world for 2020, since he believes that the US does not want China to become a superpower. The US, he said, wants to “frustrate China’s ambition to dominate 10 high-technology industries by 2025” and “stop China from making East Asia a Chinese sphere of influence.”
This is significant for Singapore since it will affect ASEAN relations with both superpowers.
His second negative trend concerns graver environmental problems, since “the governments of the world have been unable to summon the necessary political will to deal decisively with this climate emergency.”
Thirdly, he said that more mass protests should be expected worldwide, largely due to higher costs of living. “They are protesting against inequality and the unfairness of the system under which they live. They are protesting against the fact that the top one percent in their countries own and earn more than the 99 percent put together. They want a fairer distribution of wealth. They want their leaders to pay more attention to the welfare of the ordinary citizens,” he said.
Notably, he added that Hong Kong does not fit into the category of mass protests of this sort around the world, since the reasons for the protests in Hong Kong are “primarily political and not socio-economic.”
Mr Koh did have a warning, however, for Singapore not to “be complacent”.
All the ingredients are present in Asia: high cost of living, inequality and a widening gulf between the top one percent and the rest. Watch the award-winning South Korean movie Parasite.” -/TISG
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