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Asean's growth can be 'dramatically' affected by headwinds: Heng Swee Keat

ASEAN is expected to grow faster than most other regions this year, but is also facing headwinds that include trade tensions and technological disruptions, Singapore's minister for finance Heng Swee Keat said on Friday.

Speaking at the 22nd Asean Finance Ministers' Meeting, he said that the Asean finance ministers are meeting at a time of optimism for the regional economies. Asean grew by 5.1 per cent by 2017, according to IMF's (International Monetary Fund) estimates.

"However, we should not take this positive outlook for granted. We are only too aware of the headwinds that lie ahead - including rising protectionism and trade tensions, technological disruptions, and demographic trends," Mr Heng said.

"If not managed well, these profound forces can dramatically affect our growth trajectories. But, working together, we can rise to meet these challenges."

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This year's area of focus will include sustaining growth, which is centred on infrastructure financing. At the World Bank-Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit on Thursday, the finance ministers discussed with investors ways to unlock greater private capital in regional infrastructure projects, Mr Heng said.

The two other areas of focus are in boosting resilience by looking at disaster financing and cyber resilience in the region, as well as fostering innovation through the use of new technology to quicken payments and boost financial inclusion.