ASEAN Business Advisory Council calls for greater regional cooperation for Covid-19 economic recovery

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 30): The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC), along with the Joint Business Councils (JBC), has called for regional cooperation as member states reopen economies.

“It is time for the faster and more innovative ASEAN Way of doing things if it wishes to get out of the pandemic stronger and more cohesive and responsive. ASEAN peoples are looking at us and clamoring for something that would give them hope for the future,” ASEAN BAC chair Dr Doan Duy Khuong said at the Virtual High-Level Dialogue on ASEAN Post-Pandemic Recovery.

According to a statement today, the business body had submitted a list of recommendations entitled ‘Pathway to Recovery and Hope in ASEAN’ to ASEAN leaders.

ASEAN BAC Thailand chair Khun Arin Jira said: “What we have submitted to the leaders is a package of short-term proposals to facilitate coordinated, confidence-building mechanisms as we gradually re-open our economies."

“And as we re-open, we’ve also put in a parallel track that would seize the opportunity for a smart and solid take-off towards sustainable and inclusive economic recovery,” he said.

ASEAN BAC Malaysia chair Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid stressed the need for an ASEAN High Level Special Commission (HSLC).

He said recommendations will end up nowhere unless ASEAN has a sea change in terms of transformative thinking in the way it makes decisions and executes plans, adding that the HSLC should be mandated to work on the recommendations with support from the proposed ASEAN Special Business Advisory Board to undertake sweeping economic reforms.

“The HSLC should also fast track long-delayed committed economic reforms — impacting on trade facilitation, connectivity, financial services, investments, digital transformation, support for MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises], among others, under the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025,” said EU ASEAN Business Council executive director Chris Humphrey.

Even prior to the pandemic, ASEAN had fallen behind its reform action plan which has stymied expansion in trade and investments from within and without the region, he added.

ASEAN BAC said while ASEAN leaders have already set the general directions and focus for a regional response to Covid-19 during the virtual summit last month, the time for doing the groundwork on critical strategic areas must start now.

Siti Rozaimeriyanty Abd Rahman from ASEAN BAC Brunei added that ensuring preventive healthcare reforms are in place to shield ASEAN from other future pandemics and skills preparedness in terms of the new normal or future of work must be kept as priorities.

“As the world grapples with the extent of the damage being caused by the ravaging pandemic storm, there is no doubt that ASEAN has this one-time opportunity to play it smart.” ASEAN BAC said.

“The private sector has done its part and awaits signals from the public sector on how best to move forward.

“We hope to see bold leadership from the ASEAN chair and the rest of the ASEAN leaders. The private sector reiterates its commitment to be of help and be a genuine partner. We stand ready to work with ASEAN for a sustainable and rising post-Covid-19 growth path.” the business body concluded.