Asia's continued growth cannot be taken for granted: President Tony Tan

President Tony Tan Keng Yam speaking at the Asia Rising Dialogue at the Istana on Dec 7, 2015.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam speaking at the Asia Rising Dialogue at the Istana on Dec 7, 2015. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Asia may be a "bright spot" amid concerns about terrorism, civil strife and economic crises, but the region's continued growth cannot be taken for granted, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Monday night.

Its stability is crucial to the survival and prosperity of Singapore which, as a small country, has to stay relevant "to our partners'', he added.

To do so, it is actively involved in international and regional fora that "encourage constructive engagement and foster regional stability".

Dr Tan was speaking at a dinner in the Istana for participants of Asia Rising Dialogue, a closed-door conference.

The one-day event, with the theme "Asia rising and our shared future'', was organised by the Asia Society Policy Institute and the S Rajaratnam Endowment, a foundation with the aim to promote peace and stability in the region.

Asia's growth, the President noted, continues to be driven by the United States, China and Japan. And India's "Act East" policy is expected to deepen its economic and strategic engagement in the region.

Closer to home, the soon-to-be-formed Asean Economic Community -a common market with 625 million people in 10 countries with a combined gross domestic product of S$3.6 trillion - would create freer movement of trade and capital, he added.

But there are dark clouds, the President warned.

Territorial disputes in the South and East China Sea, the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, as well as growing nationalism, "if not properly managed, could derail the region's growth path".

Other tricky situations include the uneven pace and quality of development across countries, income disparities and competition within and outside Asia.

Amid these challenges, Singapore, as a small country and a hub that taps on its strategic location between the East and West, makes itself relevant by being active in international and regional fora, he said.

"Fora like the Asia Rising Dialogue play a constructive role in facilitating open discussions and interactions, and in building connections between peoples from different parts of the world,''he said.

During the conference, 50 political leaders, businessmen and thinkers from countries such as Australia, China and Indonesia, discussed issues that range from the region's geopolitics to economic challenges and opportunities.

Harvard University's political scientist Graham Allison gave a keynote address while Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and former Australian PM Kevin Rudd, who is the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, discussed the rise of China and India and its impact on the Asia Pacific region and the world.