Overview of ASEAN !

ASEAN – An Introduction
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geo-political and economic organisation of ten countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed on 8 August 1967.  Current member countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. ASEAN covers land area of 4435674 km square, which is approximately 3% of the total land area of earth and has an aggregate population of 604, 803.1 thousand, which is 8.8% of the world’s population. If ASEAN were noted as a single entity, it would rank as the eighth largest economy in the world. This article would primarily gauge growth of ASEAN as an entity and then it would discuss the relative growth of its member countries.
Member Countries – Relative Analysis
Indonesia, with area of 1,860,360 kilometre square, stands as the largest country among all the ASEAN member countries in terms of area and Singapore the lowest with area of 714 kilometre square. In terms of population Indonesia has the highest population of 237670 thousand which is roughly as high as 40% of total ASEAN population whereas the least populated nation among ASEAN is Brunei with population as low as 422 thousand. But an interesting indicator, population density, highlights that Singapore inspite of being the smallest country area wise has the highest population density of 7257 persons per kilometre square whereas Lao’s population density, which is 27 persons per kilometre square is the lowest. This more or less signifies an unprecedented growth of Singapore over last few decades. Moreover these two nations also registered the highest annual population growth of 2.1 percent among the ASEAN members.
Macroeconomic Indicators
Aggregate gross domestic product of ASEAN at current prices stands at US $21,718,148 million. Indonesia contributed the largest pie with GDP at current price of US $ 846, 821 million, which is roughly 35-36% of overall GDP of ASEAN, whereas the least contributor till January, 2013 is Laos with GDP of US $ 8163 million.
There arises a change in trend if we shift a focus towards GDP per capita. For ASEAN member, aggregate GDP per capita is US $ 3, 601 per person. But then Singapore’s phenomenal growth among ASEAN members can be witnessed from the fact that its GDP per capita is highest at US $ 50, 129 per person. This is followed by Brunei at US $38, 702. Exhibiting mediocre figures on almost all parameters, Myanmar showed GDP per capita of US $875 per person which is the lowest among all the ASEAN members. 

When we concentrate on International merchandise trade data, ASEAN as an entity registered total exports of US $12, 42, 286 millions. Singapore again manage to top the charts by representing almost one third of the total exports whereas Laos stayed at the bottom of the list with exports as low as US $1746 millions. In terms of Imports, ASEAN in aggregate registered imports worth US $11, 46, 305 millions, out of which a larger share came from Singapore with aggregate imports worth US $365, 709 millions which is again approximately 1/3rd of the total imports. These facts signify how important Singapore is in ASEAN. There are nations like Laos, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam who also carried a burden of trade deficit. 

Foreign Direct Investment inflow, an unique barometer of measuring nation’s credibility in terms of growth prospects also reveals quite an astonishing facts. With total ASEAN member FDI inflow of US $92,278 million, Singapore managed to attract maximum FDI inflow worth US $64, 000 million, which is as high as approximately 55% of total FDI inflow of ASEAN members. This has grown to more than 33% for Singapore with FDI inflow of 2010 being at modest level of US $48, 751 million, whereas ASEAN members aggregate FDI inflow could only grow by 22% approximately. In this parameter too, Laos remained at bottom with FDI inflow as low as US $ 332 million in the year 2010, which shows weaker investments sentiments in the nation. Concern remains for Laos, Thailand and Vietnam who witnessed a negative growth in FDI inflows from 2010 to 2011 at the approximate rate of 9%, 2.8% and 7% respectively.
Focusing on parameter like unemployment, The Philippines exhibited the highest unemployment percentage at 6.4 percent whereas Cambodia emerged as an improving economy in this measure with unemployment rate as low as 0.2 percent.  
Development Gap
Today, after 46 years since its inception, a biggest challenge that is haunting ASEAN members is to ensure a holistic growth of all the fellow nations like Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam who joined ASEAN so late as in late 1990s and could not match the pace of development with nations like Singapore and Indonesia. Sharing of technology, culture and knowledge is the only possible short term measure which can ensure the parity in prosperity among all the ASEAN members.

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