• Asean economic integration: Where do we go from here?

    Ej Lopez

    Ej Lopez

    THE forthcoming economic episode in our status as a nation is about to unfold in 2015 (but in fact its full implementation is still in January 2016). The much ballyhooed Asean economic integration (AEI) among 10 Asean nations plus 3 has caught the interest of many but been ignored by some, perhaps out of technical ignorance. It is noteworthy, however, that the forthcoming transformation in the economic phase of the nation is bound to create a major change in the country’s economic milieu. There is, however, a growing misconception about the possible state of the economy upon its full implementation. Whether many are misinformed or not, the AEI’s positive or negative implications should be given due recourse by the authorities if only to properly inform stakeholders so that safety nets should be put in place.

    Does regional cooperation entail a full collaboration among all member countries and in all quarters of mutual interest? Up to what extent are member countries willing to share their expertise to other members as far as its comparative advantages are concerned? Where does the business community stand in this program that up to now seems to have overlooked the vital role of the business sector in economic development?

    Despite the perceived hastily prepared status of every nation (in preparation for the Asean Economic Community in 2015), member countries have done their share in storing up knowledge on how the program works. But the state of the business scene still needs to be defined or redefined as to how it combines and operates in the mainstream of this economic innovation.

    As to how the economy works in terms of sectoral efficiency remains unclear because there seems to be no mandatory clause or perhaps a compelling clause as regards their share of knowledge, which remains within the prerogative of the host country.

    There is still the option to hold on to their innate technology or trade secrets.

    Products and services, trade cooperation and harmonization are the primary thrusts of the Asean integration. We should also note the rising macroeconomic and overall interdependence of many countries to China which, if not given proper attention, could inspire adverse effects in world trade. AEI primarily prioritizes regional trading, hence other countries remain mere alternative options to economic patronage. A trade imbalance could arise with prior big trading partners like the U.S., China and Europe if Asean member countries will trade among themselves and make other trading countries mere alternatives.

    How does AEI deal with the impact of natural disasters on the member countries’ local economy? Should calamities likewise require regional cooperation in the area of disaster risk management? As noted in the Asian Development Bank’s Conference on Asean Regional Cooperation, regional convergence could bring about rising polarization. It fragments the real thrust of what globalization should bring, which is global cooperation. Asean regional integration isolates member countries with the rest of the world because it prioritizes regional strength and development more than what it can impart to the rest of the world.

    There is, however, a growing excitement or enthusiasm as to its effect on regional employment. How liberal and cooperative are member countries to cross-border employment? Up to what limits are they going to operate and cooperate? Employment liberalization should be given due priority because it is the lifeblood of the country’s economic growth. If only for its possible positive effects to our country’s high unemployment rate, AEI should be given due recognition by local authorities.

    The business sector however should be given proper recognition to identify the extent of its role in specific areas of concern. Common interests should likewise be identified for an effective dispensation of the role of the business sector in areas of mutual interest.

    Blame game in the Senate

    The current brouhaha in the Senate concerning the finger-pointing episode in the PDAF scam has made the Senate no different from a “comedy bar” where people go to de-stress themselves. The public’s serious interest in the pork barrel scam has been replaced by an entertainment package. It is a sign of people’s exasperation with the never-ending saga of corruption that seems institutionalized in our bureaucracy.

    People who were previously perceived as innocent have now been exposed as part of the scam. Accusers have now turned into the culprits. In effect, the Senate has turned into a “zarzuela” where everyone is guilty unless proven innocent.

    Despite and in spite of obvious guilt and being a party to this unprecedented scam, it is anticipated that no one will be penalized even if proven guilty after the “smoke” has cleared. This has been the trend in our local political arena. Political trial, prosecution and conviction starts and end at the bar of public opinion with the help of media.

    For comments e-mail: doc.ejlopez@gmail.com with cc to:  opinion@manilatimes.net.


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