Bangkok Bank urges infrastructure investment
Despite Asean's fast-growing economy, the regional bloc faces challenges in digital development to maintain a competitive edge and requires infrastructure investment and labour skill upgrades to keep pace with business needs.
Technology transfers are also essential for small and medium-sized businesses.
"Investment in infrastructure such as electrical and digital networks supports regional growth and connects businesses and consumers to new business opportunities," said Bangkok Bank (BBL) president Chartsiri Sophonpanich.
In recent years, the digital economies of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines have expanded by 20-30% a year, while Vietnam's and Indonesia's have grown more than 40%, creating new unicorn startups in Asean, Mr Chartsiri said.
Financial service connectivity, including cross-border QR code payments and money transfers, helps improve business efficiency, reduces documentation burdens and trade barriers and cuts the cost of cross-border transactions, he said.
The Asean economy is now the world's fifth largest by region at over US$3 trillion, driven by inter-regional trade, which is up more than 10% from four years ago. The bloc had 5.2% economic growth in 2018.
Chaiyarit Anuchitworawong, BBL's senior executive vice-president and head of international banking, said the bank's Asean network is expanding on rising trade and investment.
BBL has 16 branches in nine Asean countries and 31 branches worldwide.