Prosperity for the ASEAN Region

Photo Caption: ASEAN Business Advisory Council chairman Joey Concepcion together with ASEAN Economic Ministers Chairman Secretary Ramon Lopez during the engagement of ASEAN BAC Members and ASEAN Economic Ministers last week.

“The economic integration effort would be meaningless if the economic rewards of growth and prosperity will exclude the MSMEs which account for almost 95-99% of the total enterprise across ASEAN.”

This is what I have shared to the economic ministers during the ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat last week in relation to ASEAN BAC’s theme of “Partnering for Change, Prosperity for All.” I, together with some ASEAN Business Advisory Council members, presented the agenda of the council to the economic ministers on how we can all bring about prosperity in the ASEAN region. As mentioned before, we want to bring inclusive growth not just for the selected few but for all sectors across 10 countries.

The retreat and related meetings was successfully hosted by the AEM Chair, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and his team in DTI. This is just one of the many activities of DTI this year as Philippines hosts ASEAN for its 50th anniversary.

During the engagement with the economic ministers, I explained the three key pillars of ASEAN BAC. First, we are promoting Inclusive Business in the region where large corporations will play as big brothers to the micro and small entrepreneurs. Big brother companies will help these small players have access in their value chain and the global market.

Second, aside from giving micro entrepreneurs access to a bigger market, we are also pushing for the goal of mentorship for them through the help of successful ASEAN businessmen. These entrepreneurs can provide not only their inspiring stories but also essential business knowledge and acumen.

Inclusive Business and Mentorship are relevant to Go Negosyo as these are also the things that we are pushing for since we launched the Kapatid, Angat Lahat program in August 2016.

Lastly, ASEAN BAC aims to continue its government interventions in policy reform and executing programs consistent with the Strategic Action Plan for MSMEs which was launched by the ASEAN Leaders in 2015.

Dr. Mohd Munir Majid, ASEAN BAC Chair for Malaysia, also participated in the discussion by giving a presentation on the initiatives of ASEAN BAC to create a platform where small investors can help fund MSMEs in the region. This can be done through lending or investments. He said that there are more small investors who are looking for credit-worthy MSME projects which have growth potentials in the ASEAN market. He added that this will need the collaboration of banks who can provide the credit evaluation.

Malaysia is also pursuing a finance platform for MSMEs called Growth Accelerator Exchange or GAX. It is a digital platform that provides basic solutions necessary for MSMEs growth – ecosystem e-financing, e-payment platform integration, and ASEAN wide e-logistics services.

Many micro and small entrepreneurs are surviving entrepreneurs because they lack the needed financial support. So these programs of funding for them will be a boost to their growth and development. In our country, there are many microfinance companies such as CARD-MRI and banks which have funding programs for micro entrepreneurs.

ASEAN BAC Chair for Singapore, Dr. Robert Yap, also discussed the plans of ASEAN BAC in completing and strengthening the ASEAN Connectivity. Four projects comprise this plan which includes Malaysia’s Financial Connectivity project, Laos’ Laos Connect project, Philippines and Indonesia’s ASEAN Maritime Connectivity through the RORO Project, and lastly Philippines’ ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network.

The ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network or AMEN gathers a pool of mentors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders across ASEAN who will provide mentorship to micro and small entrepreneurs. We are creating a group of mentors already from the previous winners of ASEAN Business Awards. Soon, we will be launching this in November.

ASEAN BAC’s Executive Director Gil Gonzales updated the ASEAN Economic Ministers on the progress of deeply involving the private sector in private-public consultative working groups which addresses the sectors of healthcare, agri-food, logistics, tourism, and retail. He said, “ASEAN BAC is happy to report the very enthusiastic support of other business council dialogue partners in taking leadership in key areas as trade facilitation, financial inclusion and integration, and innovation.”

We are glad to hear the commendation of the ASEAN Economic Ministers most especially AEM Chair, Sec. Lopez. They appreciate the strong involvement of the private sector in building a more inclusive region for MSMEs. We are one with the economic ministers in making the ASEAN Economic Community work and be felt by the Filipinos and other ASEAN members.

Sec. Lopez said, “Public-private sector engagement not only reduces the gap of understanding of the private sector and the general public on ASEAN, it also promotes intra-ASEAN and global trade and investment and reduces current and future impediments faced business enterprises.”

It is an exciting year for the Philippines. Hopefully all plans will materialize and create a stronger and inclusive ASEAN region.