Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday that Asia must break out of its economic "straightjacket" of dependence on foreign exports if it is to overcome poverty.
Thaksin said regional development depended on new policies that encourage investment in the private sector, which is still recovering from the economic crisis of 1997-98.
"Asia, and in particular the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), must break out of this straightjacket," he said in a keynote address to the third Asian Development Forum in Bangkok.
"We must begin to redesign our response to overcome the problem of poverty while increasing our capacity to develop and grow and pay our debts in a more sustainable and efficient manner."
Thaksin said that Asia must forge interdependent economies and cut down on competition between Asian nations based on the offer of cheap labor.
"We must reject paupering each other through cut-throat export price competition to supply others by selling the future of our poor for a pittance," he said.
"A more interactive and interdependent Asia will be nimbler, more efficient and better poised to compete and cooperate to reduce the existing imbalances in the global economy."
He said Asia should no longer ensure competitiveness through fiscal and monetary austerity, lowered export prices and "continuous devaluations."
"Export-led solutions, which demand greater national sacrifices in light of a world economic slowdown, must be re-examined," he said.
Technological innovation is crucial to future development, Thaksin said, noting that Asian countries needed to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills in order to take advantage of global technology at a local level.
"We must learn to innovate and not merely follow the 'me too-ism' mentality blindly," he said.
Thaksin addressed more than 400 international representatives, including politicians, development specialists and economists, at the forum.
The conference from June 12 to 14 is jointly sponsored by the United Nations (UN), the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the World Bank and the government of Japan.
At Tuesday's opening session, the UN announced plans to establish a "poverty alleviation center" which would function as a regional think tank that would aim to publish a survey of poverty in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of next year.
In a range of seminars, the attendees discussed regional social, economic and technological issues.