Mumbai: Haruhiko Kuroda, president, Asian Development Bank, remarked that South East Asian leaders must work towards a full free-trade zone and embark on measures that swiftly reduce poverty.
Kuroda was speaking at the second annual ASEAN summit of 16 nations being held at the island resort of Cebu in The Philippines.
Kuroda said that though the region had progressed well on economic integration and recovered well from the Asian financial crisis a decade ago, it now needed to focus on infrastructure and finding solutions to common problems of transnational crime, terrorism and pandemics if it wanted to maintain its competitive edge in the future.
He pointed out to the irony of Asia having to 12 of the world's 15 tallest buildings and being home to the world's largest slums.
"In order to more effectively play the role of a hub, however, ASEAN will need to boost its own competitiveness and pace of internal integration," Kuroda said.