Singaporeans upbeat about AEC: ST poll

Respondents looking forward to more trade, jobs, seamless travel

Travellers at Changi Airport. Besides seamless travel within Asean, more than half of Singapore respondents expect their work or travel to increase in the next three years.
Travellers at Changi Airport. Besides seamless travel within Asean, more than half of Singapore respondents expect their work or travel to increase in the next three years. ST FILE PHOTO

Singaporeans are looking forward to being part of a wider formalised community - hoping it will lead to more jobs and trade opportunities, a new poll has found.

People here hope the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will reduce business costs and allow for seamless travel within the 10-country grouping.

And they believe the AEC might even make Asean more inclusive, give it a stronger regional identity and improve its negotiating power.

Still, they recognise all this will take time and assumes everyone will come on board. A small number of respondents, however, hope it will bring no major change.

In all, 85 Singaporeans responded to a poll anchored by The Straits Times and supported by papers in the Asia News Network on the AEC titled Are We A Community?

Their views, as reflected in the poll, in many ways mirror those of their counterparts in Asean.

Nearly six out of 10 Singaporeans who took the online poll share an optimism similar to that of their peers in Malaysia and the Philippines that businesses will do better once Asean becomes a community. Close to four out of 10 Indonesians and Thais held a similar view.

Nearly 75 per cent of Singaporeans believe the formation of the community will make Asean more competitive.

This upbeat sentiment resonates with people in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand as well - the four countries from where 80 or more responses were received during the 50-day polling period. A minimum of 80 responses was sought to ensure a reasonable sample to gauge sentiments in the region.

Slightly over half of those who took the poll here expect their work or travel to increase in the next three years. Their view on this is closer to those of Thais and Malaysians. At least three-quarters of Indonesians and Filipinos expect an increase in their work or travel.

While most Singaporeans have links with people in Asean, less than 10 per cent say that people in Asean share a common identity.

A hefty 70 per cent of respondents here believe people in Asean do not share a common identity. In contrast, 55 per cent of respondents in Malaysia held this view, while the figure for the Philippines was 49 per cent, that for Thailand was 57 per cent and that for Indonesia was 38 per cent.

But that could change.

Said Singaporean Dharmendra Yadav: "It will make Asean a more inclusive place for me. Since food is such a uniting force, imagine having breakfast in Singapore and dinner in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City or Yangon - all in a day's work."

Another Singaporean, Mr Christopher Ng, said: "It will make Singapore - a small nation - a part of a larger community, thus enabling the Singapore economy to expand and grow so that Singaporeans will have a better opportunity to grow our business and improve career prospects and, most importantly, contribute to improve the standard of living and quality of life."

Others hope the formation of the AEC will give nations of the grouping more influence in world affairs as well as lead to gains for individuals.

Ms Karin Low hopes that visas for retirement purposes will be eased and property purchases better protected. Singaporean student Jiayu hopes formation of the community will make it easier and more attractive for students to work in the region.

But there are those who worry that it will lead to an influx of people into Singapore while others are concerned that progress for the AEC will be slow.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline Singaporeans upbeat about AEC: ST poll. Subscribe