This weekend, Singapore held its inaugural “Singapore Forum,” an event that the city-state hopes will provide a regular platform for political and business leaders to discuss challenges in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming years.
The forum, organized by the S Rajaratnam Endowment – created in honor of the country’s revered first foreign minister – is another addition to the list of such regional forums, including the annual Shangri-La Dialogue also held in the city-state which focuses on security issues.
The theme of the inaugural Singapore Forum, which brought together over 200 top leaders and thinkers, was “Asia and the World – New Growth, New Strategies.” The one-day conference had three plenary sessions discussing issues surrounding the next phase of Asia’s growth, measures to strengthen regional economic cooperation and ways to optimize and manage the potential and impact of technological advancements. These sessions were set to feature prominent personalities such as Indonesia’s former trade minister Mari Pangestu, Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, and the Chinese official leading Beijing’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, Jin Liqun.
The Forum also featured remarks by key current and former officials. On the opening night on April 10, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had a conversation moderated by Singapore’s former ambassador to the United States Chan Heng Chee, which touched on issues ranging from ASEAN’s potential to China’s new Silk Road economic belt initiative, both of which we have covered extensively here at The Diplomat. (for examples, see here, here, here, and here). Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam also delivered a lunch address on April 11 which addressed Asia’s economic challenges, including the limits of the new mantra of focusing on domestic demand and the need to reexamine current approaches to education to keep up with the pace of technological change.
The Singapore Forum keynote address was delivered by former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In his speech, Yudhoyono argued that while the several trends that continue to fuel Asia’s rise, including a growing middle class and thriving entrepreneurship, other disturbing developments including tensions among major powers means that the region should also be prepared for some tough times ahead. His focus on fostering regionalism and mitigating major power rivalry was a similar note to the one he struck in a previous speech he gave in Washington, D.C. which The Diplomat covered here.