Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has praised ASEAN for having been able to demonstrate its economic resilience, in the face of the recent global financial crisis.

"The ASEAN region is predicted to grow between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent this year, which is higher than the world average of 4.5 percent," the head of state said when giving a lecture to celebrate the 44th Anniversary of ASEAN here on Monday.

He said the ASEAN member nations must must ensure that their people enjoy the economic benefits of the work of ASEAN.

The overall population of ASEAN is already more than half a billion, half of which is the new middle class, and its member countries have a combined GDP of USD1.5 trillion.

"This clearly shows that ASEAN is a worthy economic partner of any other region in the world, and an emerging hub of vigorous global economic cooperation," he said.

Therefore, he added, ASEAN must continue to develop new approaches, and to engage the private sector and dialogue partners, as well as ensure access to public services, social safety nets, development of small medium enterprises, and financial inclusion schemes.

"That is how we can build a regional economy and national economies, that can promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth," the president said.

According to Yudhoyono, ASEAN is now starting the final lap just before the finish line?the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015.

"When the day comes that ASEAN is fully integrated as a community, we must be sure that this is celebrated not only here, at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, and not only in the ASEAN capitals. It must be celebrated in all the cities, towns and rural areas throughout Southeast Asia," he said.

For that purpose, the regional organization must do more to spark in the peoples a sense of participation and a sense of ownership in the work of ASEAN, he added.

He also called for a full implementation of the ASEAN`s program of connectivity, so that the peoples have every opportunity to interact with one another, and know one another more closely.

"We could achieve this, if we could soon agree on a common visa arrangement," he stated before around audience consisting of among others ASEAN member countries` ambassadors and officials.

ASEAN was founded in 1967 when the Bangkok Declaration was signed in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as its Founding Fathers. Later, Brunei Darussalam joined in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and finally, Cambodia in 1999.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2011