ENHANCING regional integration and mainstreaming small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in global and regional markets are two of the four priority areas that will be up for discussion in next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit which will be held here in the Philippines.
The two other priority areas are investing in human capital development and building sustainable and resilient economies, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.
“Specifically, the Philippine vision for APEC 2015 is to sustain a prosperous and cohesive region that places inclusive development at the heart of economic integration in the Asia Pacific,” Balisacan said during the Symposium on APEC 2015 Priorities-Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting held in Makati City on Monday.
Balisacan, who is also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said advancing economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region will further strengthen and facilitate trade and investment among APEC member economies.
However, he noted that headwinds are expected amid projections of slowing growth in world trade over the next two years, which means that APEC countries should remain resolute in their efforts toward greater economic integration.
“In particular, building on previous strengths, we are one with the other APEC economies in exploring initiatives to further enhance the supply chain and identify best practices to expand connectivity through services, such as reaching the target of 25 percent reduction in the cost of doing business,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Balisacan noted that focusing initiatives to support the SMEs—which constitute more than 90 percent of the businesses in the developing APEC economies—will have immense multiplier effects in terms of employment generation, product innovation through establishment of new industries, and countryside development by means of introducing and spreading new business opportunities.
He said that for SMEs to take part in the regional and global value chains, there is a need to identify measures that will provide an open and transparent business environment that will serve as a seedbed for innovation and entrepreneurship.
“We want the sector to be able to participate in the global chain by providing them easier access to finance, markets, and innovation. Through these, we aim to increase the SMEs’ profits along with their capacity to supply international partners with products that are at par with world standards,” he stated.
In terms of investing in human capital development, the NEDA chief stressed that constantly innovating and dynamic industry and services sectors require a better-equipped and more competitive labor force.
“To address these evolving requirements, we have identified interventions to implement educational reforms at both the primary and secondary levels, align education and training programs to respond to the requirements set by industries, emphasize the importance of the public and private sectors and the academe in human capital development, empower women and vulnerable groups, and provide trainings for skills upgrading that can reduce job-worker mismatches,” he said.
On the other hand, the importance of building sustainable and resilient communities to maintain the growth they have been experiencing in recent years cannot be underestimated, he said.
Balisacan said the Philippines is particularly prone to natural hazards, while other economies in the region have, in varying degrees, their own share of risks to natural hazards.
“For this reason, we are constantly challenged to instigate effective measures for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). We hope that APEC will tackle interventions to mitigate the effects of climate change and push for enhanced DRRM,” he said.
The NEDA chief expressed the hope that APEC will continue to be a bridge for development in the Asia Pacific region and the world and its members will remain solid in strengthening the community by working together to achieve economic growth and prosperity.
MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO