Secretary-General of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) Lim Jock Hoi [Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP]
The outgoing ASEAN Secretary General, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, says that, despite the achievements of the last five years, the ASEAN community remains at a crossroads.
“This is because of the global and regional headwinds that impact the future of the ASEAN community, including problems like global trade tensions, climate change, the digital divide and even the pandemic. Taken together, these challenges have exposed gaps or weaknesses in the ability of ASEAN to address some of its goals, such as participation in global value chains, enhancement of macro-financial coordination and narrowing development gaps,” the ASEAN chief noted.
In the article, published in the Jakarta Post today (31st December), Dato Lim said that, given the kinds of challenges faced by the ASEAN community, the post-2025 ASEAN agenda should be more dynamic and capable of launching new initiatives and implementing measures in response to changing market and economic conditions.
Before he leaves his job today, the secretary general had a few recommendations for ASEAN. First, the bloc must continue to remain relevant, dynamic and flexible. The ASEAN Secretariat needs to be strengthened and well-funded. Second, ASEAN needs to develop a comprehensive and well-coordinated post-2025 agenda and strategies on all cross-sectoral pillars. He reiterated that it is an opportunity to re-imagine ASEAN as a truly integrated community.
Finally, all ASEAN members must embed the welfare of the people as an integral part of ASEAN thinking and strategy in its political, economic and social systems. That way, ASEAN would become a more resilient and integrated community that can better cope with shocks and uncertainties.
Dato Lim, a former permanent secretary for trade from Brunei Darussalam, assumed the post at the most turbulent time, both at the regional and international levels; the Covid-19 outbreak, which has been ongoing for the past three years, the coup in Myanmar in February 2021 and the Ukraine war, which began in February 2022. All these new shocks and developments have impacted negatively on the progress and integration of the ASEAN community.
The outgoing chief has been credited for pushing for progress in implementing the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, to ensure speedier economic headway. As a result, ASEAN’s projected growth of 5.3% in 2022 far exceeds the global growth average of 3.2%. Under his leadership, efforts to build back better and secure the contribution of regional integration of the 675-million-member community has been given priority. “ASEAN member states have managed to reopen schools and new guidelines are now in place to keep them open for safe in-person education during health crises and emergencies in the long term,” he said.
In the past five years, ASEAN has expanded its external relationships considerably. The bloc added United Kingdom as the 11th dialogue partner, two sectoral dialogue partners (Brazil and the United Arab Emirates) and three development partners (Chile, France and Italy). Furthermore, since 2018, there have been 15 more signatories to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. ASEAN also decided to welcome Timor-Leste as a member.
Dato Lim will be succeeded by Kao Kim Hourn from Cambodia. The new chief is currently the Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister of Cambodia.