VERY important for us Filipinos is the matter tackled in Dr. Jose Romero’s Ambassadors Corner column today. He originally titled his piece “The AEC: Its past and its future.” But we decided to give it a punchier headline because his intention is to persuade those who “have visions of Armageddon here in the Philippines with the implementation of the EAC” that it will be good for us Filipinos.
AEC is the Asean Economic Community. It is scheduled to start being a reality next year. The Asean countries’ leaders who envisioned it wants our region to be something like the unified economy that Europe is supposed to be.
But the current state of the European Union, the Eurozone (those countries that have made the euro their national legal tender) and the vision of an EEC (European Economic Community) formalized in the 1957 Rome Treaty might now not be as inspiring as it used to be.
Economic problems in every one of the EU countries have made the richer countries less generous—with loans, soft financing and actual aid—to the poorer and less disciplined countries. That’s because the poorer sectors of the rich countries’ population are now more resentful than during better times of their governments’ and banks’ magnanimity to the troubled economies of the poorer European countries.
In the decades before our present one, over-all prosperity allowed the European Union to function as if it had a single economy–as if the European Economic Community of the founders’ vision had really become a seamless Common Market. But the credit meltdown caused by the global economic crisis of 2007-2008 and fears of it recurring (in fact the world has really not yet fully recovered up to now) have revived economic nationalism and a me-first outlook all over the EU.
EU, Eurozone will prevail
I don’t think the EU and the Eurozone will unravel, though. But if the inward-looking Euroskeptics and EU-hating parties had their way, they would dismantle the EU and the Eurozone. These rightwing political parties are gaining ground. In the last European elections, they have won more seats in parliaments than ever.
The EU would have been more solid and the Common Market a reality had there been a union government to impose rules and laws on all the members. But there is none. There is no Europe-Government run central bank to penalize member countries that show no discipline in financial affairs and no EU-central police directorate to help countries curb the disruptive disorderliness of some citizens.
I personally wish implementation of the AEC next year would go on as scheduled. It might just be the jolt some of our countrymen need to shape up. An Armageddon-like struggle against foreign competition will. I’m sure, drive our businessmen to learn to be more united, more competitive, so that their enterprises can become sustainable.
While the European Common Market-EU model seems to be losing its attractiveness, economic globalization is unstoppable. And Asean must become an economic powerhouse because that is the only way the 50 or more percent of the human population of our region can be lifted up from absolute poverty. That would also be the way the Asean region will become a leader in global economic growth.
Worrisome Channel News Asia report
But something that Singapore-based Channel News Asia reported last week makes me worry that the AEC might not begin in 2015.
This report, by CNA’s Dylan Loh, says two surveys in Singapore reveal that majority of businessmen in Asean don’t know what AEC is. “A survey by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies found that 55 per cent of some 380 firms polled across the region were not aware of the AEC. And Singapore companies had the highest level of ignorance – at 86 per cent.”
Another survey, by the Singapore Business Federation, found that about 38 per cent of its 1,000 members were ignorant of the impending economic integration of the 10 Asean countries. And it seems that in sophisticated First World Singapore, businessmen running smaller companies cannot tell you what the AEC means or even which countries are members of Asean.
If that’s the case in Singapore, what do you think is it in the Philippines?