Economic Progress

Why trust is key to East Asia’s bright future

Philipp Rösler
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Economic Progress

In January, the World Economic Forum was officially recognized as an International Institution for public-private cooperation. This is a major step towards our mission of improving the state of the world.

All of today’s global challenges – such as our drive for inclusive growth, our fight for food security, protecting the environment and maintaining resource security – can neither be solved by the private sector nor by the public sector alone. To solve these challenges, we will always need public-private cooperation.

The World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 is our first regional meeting under this new status. So what does the meeting’s theme, “Anchoring Trust in East Asia’s New Regionalism”, mean?

To start, allow me to tell you a short story.

I was born in 1973 in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. I spent the first months of my life in a catholic orphanage, until I was adopted by a couple in Germany. I grew up in Germany, went to school there, and this gave me the opportunity to become a physician.

Later, I went into politics; I was a minister for five years, became the first Federal Health Minister of Germany, then Federal Minister of Economics and later Vice-Chancellor with Chancellor Angela Merkel. I was the first Federal Minister from an immigrant Asian background.

And now I am with the World Economic Forum, because my parents and my country gave me the chance of my lifetime.

EA15_meme_Philipp Rösler (2)

But this story is not about Germany or Europe. This story is about the common challenges we face today in East-Asia. Because today, forty years on, East-Asia has changed totally.

Despite some geopolitical issues, East-Asia is a peaceful region. Your fathers and grandfathers have created the idea of the ASEAN community and this idea is becoming more and more of a reality. We see everywhere fast growing societies, fast growing middle-classes and dynamic economic growth.

For example, look at the impressive numbers and figures associated with Indonesia; GDP of $860 billion and a projected growth rate of 6% this year, a rank of 34 in our latest Global Competitiveness Report and – interestingly – an expected 70 million Facebook users by the end of this year.

Macro-economic data for the entire East-Asian region is similarly encouraging. There are great achievements taking place everywhere.

And at the same time we still have important questions to answer: how can we close education, talent and gender gaps? What innovations will help us live sustainably so that the story of Asia’s growth through a rising middle-class continues? How can business champions and institutions strengthen the ASEAN Economic Community? How can we guarantee food security and food safety, sustainably? Can we build infrastructure fast enough? Can we improve health systems to deliver healthier lifestyles? And what about the future of energy?

A lot of questions, a lot of transformations. But with the spirit of public-private cooperation we can address these challenges.

Leadership means having the courage to make decisions, to be competent and capable to make the right decisions and in particular to have the ability to motivate people to turn decisions into reality. For this motivation, trust is decisive.

Therefore you cannot underestimate the importance of trust. Trust is key, trust is critical. Trust is the glue which holds a society as well as a region together. Without trust, there is no motivation and therefore no leadership. Without leadership we will not overcome East Asia’s challenges.

So the responsibility is great. The World Economic Forum’s East Asia 2015 meeting is a platform for real public-private cooperation in order to create trust, and to lead East Asia into a better future.

Finally, if we keep to the decisions made at this meeting, if we all keep to our commitments, then in 10 years’ time someone will welcome you to the 34th World Economic Forum on East Asia and he, or even better, she, will tell her story.

That she was adopted from one region elsewhere in the world. That she grew up in East-Asia, that she went to school, got a job, made a career in business, politics, or both. That she got the chance of a lifetime, here in East-Asia.

The World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 19-21 April. 

Author: Philipp Rösler, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum

Image: A worker arranges steel structures at a construction site of an apartment in Hanoi June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Kham

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