A poll by The Straits Times, together with members of the Asia News Network, elicited a range of responses from citizens of Asean on the formation of the Asean Economic Community, which is due to come into being on Dec 31. The poll was hosted online from Oct 20 to Dec 9, over a 50-day period. 655 people took the poll. Dhurga Ramesh trawled through all the responses to pull out a selection of views. The figures mentioned in brackets refer to the age group of the respondents.
On the formation of the AEC:
"I probably say that Asean community will change the way I perceive people across the regions. Even though most people still have tendency to think based on their roots of culture, I am quite certain there will be a big shift in paradigm among people as we all move forward into a more globalised era. "It definitely takes a long time, considering each of the participant country has strong culture background, it is not easy to bring society mindset on to next level of openness. Despite the various culture as strong determinant, Asean still has possibility (to) become one major force of people because its new generations are likely to be more tolerant than the predecessors."
Ms Mel, Indonesia (18-35)
"It will make Singapore - a small nation - a part of a larger Community. Thus enabling Singapore economy to expand and grow so that Singaporean, like us will have a better opportunity to grow our business and improve career prospect and most importantly contributing to improve standard of living and quality of life."
Mr Christopher Ng, Singapore (56-65)
"Asean Community will change my life by giving me a new identity of being an Asean citizen, an identity that is collectively shared among 622 million people."
Miss Julia, Indonesia (18-35)
On benefits for people, business & Asean:
"It will change my life, and maybe thousands other people's lives, too, if it opens bigger doors for education and health facilities that are affordable, but proper, along with more opportunities and easier procedures for employment."
Ms Novia Rulistia, Indonesia (18-35)
"I work in HR so I'm expecting changes in the way we recruit, how we attract the best candidates in the region, how to shape pay and benefits, and in relevant labour laws once the Asean Community is in place. I'm sure there will be competition amongst the different markets, but I hope it will be a constructive one, where each county will aim to not only produce but develop quality local talent with a regional and ultimately global outlook."
Ms April Ferrer, Philippines (18-35)
"A strong Asean identity will give us a strong voice - as a united community - to play a more active and leading role in resolving global issues, and make this world a better and safer place."
Ms Priscilla Toh, Singapore (36-45)
"It will provide economies of scale for production that in turn is likely to lower the prices of goods for ordinary people. Economies of scale will also attract investment, that will have trickle down effect on people's income in the long-run. Finally, by creating a community in true sense, Asean will deliver on a promise that most of the developing countries are unable to do till now. That will indeed generate an identity."
Ms Sanchita, Singapore (18-35)
"There will be no border among Asean countries and some problems in Asean can be reduced. Most importantly, Asean country can help each other economically and politically which make Asean more developed. Moreover, maybe Asean can participate and be counted in international level to open more chances for future business."
Mr Benedictus Prabandanu, Indonesia, (18-35)
"The era of competitiveness among workers in Asean finally begin. Yes, it might be challenging, but it also open up a big opportunity for many. The question will be, are we up to this yet? Are we prepared to be challenged?"
Ms Miranti, Indonesia, (18-35)
On the need for political will power:
"Political willpower to emphasise on regional unity rather than on national issues. National pride needed to be compromised to achieve a common regional goal."
Mr Christopher Louis Tan, Malaysia, (18-35)
On challenges along the way:
"The Asean Community could and I believe will provide more competition in Asean Region. This means personally I will have to step up my game more, especially as a professional; no more wasting time and no more complacency."
Mr Hisardo D. Tenggana, Indonesia, (18-35).
"I need to be more prepared to get ready to meet new friends; to face new beliefs; and to share new products. I believe members in each country have to more open and more flexible in order to become friends and foster a sense of a larger community than one of its own. But I don't know if I'm too old to see it happen."
Miss Jiraporn Witayasakpan, Thailand, (56-65)
"Asean countries are not ready for community, strong ethnicity, lack of capital accumulation between Asean countries will be a backfire for countries that do not have enough capital (finance, human resource, natural resource)."
Miss Asmiati, Indonesia, (18-35)
Some respondents are skeptical about Asean being able to come together as a community. Below are a sampling of what they wrote in the online poll.
A pipe dream
"An integration of the region with so many distinct races, cultures, religions and languages coupled with the varying pace of each country's development, makes AEC more of a paper dream that will take decades to realise."
Mr Saw L.B., Malaysia, (56-65)
"Judging from the way things are running right now, the region does not feel the forthcoming impact of turning the Asean into one community. I believe that richer countries in the association are more concerned about the other members pulling them down in the future."
Mr Carlos Ramirez, Singapore, (18-35)
Suggestions on the way forward:
"We should set up a standard Asean-wide visa framework. That is, if a tourist/visitor to Singapore suddenly wishes to visit Indonesia , all he should need to do is to visit a centralized agency to endorse his visa to Indonesia, Vietnam or Malaysia instead of running from pillar to post to the various visa offices. This will ease the visitors' issues and also show that Asean has a united front."
Mr R Thirumal Samy, Singapore, (46-55)
"Synchronise system of education."
Mr Leo Borras, Philippines, (36-45)
"Awareness. Most people are aware of Asean but have no clue of the details."
Mr Mark Hefner, Thailand, (46-55)