FOR the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic integration to succeed, leaders of the member-countries must show conviction and commitment and believe in its promised growth, according to former Philippine Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho.
Camacho, who was one of the speakers during the 2nd Manila Times Business Forum held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City on Wednesday, bewailed that some Asean political leaders have failed to fully explain the economic benefits of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) to their citizens.
This, he said, leads to confusion and misappreciation of the integration program which aims to make the region a formidable economic bloc.
“Presidents, prime ministers and other officials must have conviction, the commitment and to show that they truly believe it,” said Camacho, who is now managing director of Credit Suisse based in Singapore.
He served briefly as energy secretary in the Arroyo administration and was later transferred to the Department of Finance.
Camacho spoke on the Asean investment opportunities and challenges during the said forum that was organized by The Manila Times.
“It will be hard to believe if the (government) spokespeople themselves make it (AEC) a non-issue. They must believe,” he stressed while answering a question during the open forum.
According to him, he knew for a fact that many leaders who had attended previous discussions about the AEC abroad seemed to forget about it when they come home. By that, he meant that the matter lacked “follow up.”
“There are a slew of things that government and business people have to do,” he stressed, pointing out that it is only through aggressive and massive education campaign that local economic sectors in each country would come to realize and understand the advantages of the integration plan.
For his part, Tan Sri Dato Dr. Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, who delivered the keynote address in the same event, highlighted the strength of Asean as one unit.
He said the combined growth of the ten-member Asean “overtook China” in the previous years.
Unless the AEC is properly explained to the peoples of each country, he said there will be anxiety among them, thus, affecting the “vast Asean market.”
According to Majid, who tackled the new regulatory environment under AEC, the main fear about the AEC is that Asean investments derived over the years might go to China.
“We must engage the local population… getting readily domestically and in going out,” he said.
During the forum, it was learned that Singapore is the best prepared country for the integration while Indonesia is the least because the government there gives more premium to bilateral arrangements rather than multilateral.
Majid said it seems that Indonesia is “not so enamored” with the idea that is the AEC.