ESM Goh on how Boao forum can better serve Asia

The Boao forum can better serve Asia by striving to become a vehicle which actively advances medium- and long-term goals for the region, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday.

To that end, Mr Goh suggested that the annual forum held in southern China must crystallise ideas into reports that can be discussed at other major forums such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, so that leaders can act on these ideas.

In his critique of the Boao For Asia (BFA) forum - now into its 15th year - Mr Goh said the event should always live up to the theme it had set this year, which is "Asia's New Future: New Dynamics, New Vision".

"This shouldn't just be the topic for one year. If not, it'll just be a talkshop," he told a gathering of politicians and businessmen at a panel dialogue with BFA's board of directors, of which he is a member.

Since its formation in 2002, the China-led BFA has been billed as Asia's version of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, but has failed to live up to its hype.

Mr Goh, who has taken part in the BFA for seven years, said one important area for the forum to look at was Asia's economic integration, which if realised can bring great prosperity and growth to the region.

"It's a topic of tremendous importance for all of us," he said. "We need to take a medium- or long- term perspective of this issue."

The theme of the panel discussion yesterday was the global economic outlook for this year, and Mr Goh said South-east Asia would see modest growth, with concerns over global economic volatility.

The health of China's economy remained a major concern for many participants, but fellow panellist Zeng Peiyan sought to ease the worries of those present.

The BFA vice-chairman, also a former Chinese vice-premier, said China's domestic demand was still strong, citing the consumption habits and spending power of the country's tourists.

Mr Peng ruled out any possibility of a hard landing or sharp downturn for the Chinese economy, while expressing confidence in the country's ability to weather the economic restructuring it is undergoing. "China can steadily make the change," he said. "We hope everyone here can have a more thorough understanding of the Chinese economy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'ESM Goh on how Boao forum can better serve Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe