Angela Newby: Young leaders inspire at the WEF ASEAN

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Angela NewbyI wanted to share a few thoughts and experiences from Phnom Penh as I experience my first WEF meeting, where I had the pleasure of hearing from some inspiring young future leaders.

Day one: What is your ASEAN dream?

With an audience of over 2,700 young Cambodians, the panel of government, activists and entrepreneurs were going to be challenged! The impressive Wai Wai Nu stood out for me, a political prisoner in Myanmar for seven years from the age of 17 and now founder of the Women Peace Network.

I was struck by her boldness as she made her case. She says ASEAN countries need a critical voice, that private and public security is key, and only then would nations thrive. The governments must lead by example, she says, and demonstrate honour, respect and not be afraid of diverse opinions. The youth must take action to shape their future governments, participate and take positive action. Inspiring words indeed.

At question time the government minister was caught off guard when a bright young Cambodian woman questioned him on Cambodia’s freedom of expression. Go girl power!

Day two: Southeast Asia and the Big Picture

There was a highly impressive panel discussion with industry leaders and non-government organisations, led by the fantastically polished anchor Sri Jegarajah from CNBC.

The question was raised about whether the ASEAN community has gone far enough and should now think about a more formal union, perhaps with one currency, similar to the EU, where borders should become less barriers but more points of connection.

No one felt the EU way was necessarily the way for ASEAN. However, inclusive growth has been a consistent theme at these sessions. How can the community level the playing field for global, regional or local businesses to tap into the human capital and create financial opportunities? How can it reduce the friction points, improve logistics and reduce the regulation between countries for trade? These are big questions for all the member nations to ponder.

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) also have been a consistent topic, as many feel these need to be redesigned to ensure sustainable growth: not just environmentally friendly growth but growth of jobs that will sustain into the future, not jobs that will disappear with technological advances. Also highlighted was the importance of establishing urban centres that are resilient for the future.

A topic I hadn’t thought about but that resonated was the curse of having natural resources and the risk of brain drain. Norway was cited as a good example of avoiding both. How? Countries need to invest in institutions to ensure fair reinvestment into education, infrastructure and healthcare from natural resources gains. That leads to better job creation meaning talent will stay and cities will develop to be high on liveability indices, a huge focus when we think about the future of work in Southeast Asia.

Look here for more on JLL’s perspectives on the Future of Work.

To read about how Southeast Asia’s young population is shaping the urban landscape, take a look at our latest report.

Angela Newby is Managing Director, Transaction Management Asia Pacific, JLL