Indian Ocean nations key to progress

Developing economies of the Indian Ocean region will become important players in the world economic scene over the next few years and establish themselves as the most significant trading bloc by 2050, a prominent leader has said.

According to Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition, Leader of Sri Lanka’s United National Party (UNP) and former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, these countries would muster sufficient economic and human resources to influence global trade and politics.

“The emerging Indian Ocean regional economy will not be based on the hub US and ‘Spokes Model of the APEC. India will be the third largest economy in the world by 2050, although it may not have the dominance that the US enjoys today,” he said, speaking at a luncheon hosted in his honour by International College of Auckland at Stamford Plaza Hotel on May 30.

Advantage Diaspora

Stating that India gained a distinct advantage through its Diaspora in almost all the major countries of the world, he cited the examples of Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Arab Gulf and South Africa.

“This network helps Indian investments and trade in the region,” he said but cautioned Delhi against growing competition from China and even smaller countries like Myanmar.

According to Mr Wickremesinghe, demography would play a major role in shaping world power and economy.

He said the ageing population in many developed, industrial countries and the consequent drop in the workforce would reduce growth by the middle of the current century. An increase in the relative size of the population in the developing world will bring about stronger economic growth, he said.

“Global population growth will slow down from its peak of 1 ¼% in 1965 to ¼% in 2050. The largest increase in population will be around the Indian Ocean, increasing from the current level of 2.1 billion to 3.9 billion in 2050.

“Pakistan’s population will increase to 350 million, Indonesia to more than 300 million and Bangladesh to 250 million. Uganda, Ethiopia, Yemen and Iran would each account for over 100 million people,” he said.

Core sectors

Mr Wickremesinghe believes that education and health would be among the sectors that would benefit most with stronger economic and population growth in the Indian Ocean region, providing for greater regional integration.

“The fast growing health and education sectors in Australia, South Asia and the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) will provide education and health services for others in the region. By 2050, the per capita GDP of some African countries will range from US$ 750 to US$ 2000, with South Africa reaching a higher level.

“The other expanding sectors will be financial services and mobile operators. All these sectors will also make substantial contribution to promote inter regional trade in manufacture and services,” he said.

WAML Group Chairman and Chairman of the ICA Board of Advisors Wenceslaus Anthony said that globalisation had revolutionised the commercial sector world over, creating a level-playing field for entrepreneurs and companies ushering in an era of competitiveness and transparency.

Responsible Ethics

“The challenge for commercial, non-commercial and governmental entities (including governments) would be run sustainable and successful organisations on the basis of ‘Responsible Ethics.’ Collaboration is the key word that should be the core of relationship between companies, people and countries,” he said.

Speaking about export education, Mr Anthony said that unethical practices followed by some agents and institutions had forced many governments to tighten rules and regulations relating to international student arrivals.

He described New Zealand as “A great destination for international students.”

“New Zealand is the right choice with a safe environment, innovative quality education. We are a peaceful country,” he said.

Mr Wickremesinghe was in New Zealand to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Democrat Union (IDU) of which he is the Deputy Chairman.

The meeting, held in Wellington, discussed a number of issues under the theme, ‘Free Trade as a strategy for development.’

IDU is a centre-right international alliance of conservative, Christian Democratic and Liberal-Conservative political parties. Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, it comprises 54 full members and is chaired by John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia.

Bilateral trade

Speaking at the IDU meeting, National Party MP from Wairarapa John Hayes said that some countries and people were using the pressures of the global financial crisis to push back against trade.

“Such a view is short-sighted. The number of Free Trade Agreements being negotiated and signed continues to accelerate and this is a sure sign that most governments still see the undoubted benefits of free trade.

“These agreements are now largely bilateral, sub-regional or regional in nature. It is evident that efforts at a global level have effectively stalled,” he said.

Mr Hayes said that New Zealand was focused on trade in the powerhouse Asia-Pacific region and was involved in intense negotiations with India, Korea and Russia.

“US President Barack Obama is hopeful that the ‘Trans Pacific Partnership’ will be signed before the next US election. That timeline might be ambitious,” he said.

Among the others present at the ICA luncheon were Sri Lankan MP and UNP’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sagala Ratnayaka, former High Commissioner to India and Sri Lanka Graeme Waters, International College of Auckland Founder-Principal James Zhu and CEMIX Limited Director Bhav Dhillon.

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