OPENING REMARKS BY DR ROBERT YAP MEMBER, ASEAN BUSINESS ADVISORY COUNCIL (ASEAN-BAC); COUNCIL MEMBER, SINGAPORE BUSINESS FEDERATION (SBF), SBF Seminar ”ASEAN Connectivity & Logistics Roadmap”,
22 November 2010, 2.00 – 5.30 p.m at SBF Seminar Room 2
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Singapore Business Federation, it gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this SBF seminar on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015. Our focus today is on ASEAN Connectivity and the ASEAN Logistics Roadmap.
May I express our sincere appreciation to our supporting organisation, Singapore Logistics Association, and the speakers for their collaboration with us towards the fruitful outcome of this event.
At the ASEAN Summit last month in Hanoi, the ASEAN Connectivity Masterplan was approved by the ASEAN Leaders as a milestone in ASEAN’s efforts to translate its plans to deepen economic cooperation into practical effect. Such a masterplan will serve to link up the 600 million people of ASEAN through a network of physical infrastructure and trade agreements by 2015. Additionally, it is envisaged that there also be links in the fields of culture and education to better outreach the peoples of ASEAN.
We note that the connectivity masterplan involves three prongs, i.e., the development of physical infrastructure such as an ”ASEAN highway” energy grids and ICT; speeding up the implementation of mechanisms to promote intra-ASEAN trade including liberalising sectors like aviation; enhancing ”people to people” links through freeing up visa requirements and promoting awareness of ASEAN cultures among the young. The overall aim is to improve the flow of goods, services, investments, labour, capital across ASEAN borders.
In this respect, the business community of ASEAN hails such a move forward as very timely as ASEAN approaches the target date of 2015 for the achievement of the ASEAN Economic Community (or AEC in short).
Too often, as we know, the ASEAN plans set, the agreements signed have not been implemented according to the respective timelines. Consequently, business plans are difficult to follow through and are subject to various changes along the way. Whilst businesses will try to adapt and be as flexible as they can be, we are at times frustrated by the seeming lack of seriousness in the carrying out of agreements.
It is therefore heartening to know that the ASEAN Governments recognise that our region can no longer continue with business as usual.
If ASEAN fails to keep to its own road maps for integration under the AEC Blueprint, the region will suffer from further fragmentation. International and regional investors would decide to put their money into more attractive markets, where factors of production are available at more competitive costs. Hence it is encouraging that the logistics sector has been included as one of the ASEAN priority integration sectors.
In perspective, we realise that with the emergence of the economic powerhouses of China and India, ASEAN is really having to ”get its act together” in order not to lose out in its competitiveness as a region. We shall hear more during this seminar about the views of ASEAN businesses on the issue of ASEAN’s competitiveness in the post-global crisis scenario. The findings were obtained from an ASEAN-BAC survey in which I hope you will all participate.
ASEAN 2015 must include an assessment of economic barriers within the region and their impact on business. Such barriers should be reduced to transform ASEAN into a single market and production base by 2015. Eventually, AEC 2015 must result in the economic and social well-being of the people.
On its part, the SBF, as the apex business chamber of Singapore, will continue to serve as the voice of the local business community in obtaining input from businesses, promoting their interests, as well as facilitating feedback to the ASEAN Governments at national and regional levels, on issues concerning regional integration.
In this context, SBF’s bridging role is realised through its representation in the respective ASEAN business platforms, such as the ASEAN Business Advisory Council. Through such business platforms, SBF would be in a stronger position to support its members in their regionalisation drive, by facilitating links and identifying opportunities.
Our representatives in the respective ASEAN business platforms would be pleased to provide the connectivity between our businesses and the ASEAN Governments, on issues pertaining to the goals of regional economic integration.
May I now wish all participants an engaging exchange of views.