Dear ASEAN, working together is the better way.

Within ASEAN, the two property markets which are considered open would be Malaysia and Singapore. However, many other ASEAN countries have started to ‘open up.’ The relaxations are still some distance away from what Malaysia or Singapore has but when it becomes more competitive and attractive, it would attract new investments into the region. I do not subscribe to the rationale that when people come into ASEAN, they can only buy from one country. It’s time to complete the ASEAN growth story, not compete against one another. Tourism can be a great place to start. Think of the potential multiplier effects when we, the people of ASEAN visits one another every time we need a break. Well, someone prominent said something even more important; ASEAN financial integration.

Reported in many local medias, it’s one of those final few messages from a respected central banker, our very own Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz before her retirement. She said something which I do hope the more objective ones would take note. Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) was among the first central banks to diversify its foreign reserves into instruments from within the Asean region. This was a very key effort but it was not recognised by the rating agencies. In brief what she meant was that Malaysia understood and took pro-active steps which actually reduces our vulnerability. BNM decided after its own monitoring and surveillance that ASEAN is where it should diversify its reserves into.

Seriously, there has been many instances where some ASEAN countries think they are so good but when we look outside of ASEAN, many regions have formed their own groupings. Without a more collective effort in terms of areas of surveillance, financial safety nets and crisis management, ASEAN nations will have to face the next financial crisis individually. SEA Games may be the only MOST collective one that we have. Zeti said, “Financial integration in the region has not progressed that significantly. Asean economies however have reached that stage of development whereby greater regional financial integration can unlock growth potential.”

She said that moving forward, if there are more financial integration, it would allow the ASEAN region to have a more efficient risk diversification of assets to include foreign assets within the region. Surpluses in some countries channelled to increase the productivity in other member countries. ASEAN region has one of the highest savings rates in the world and this meant that there is immense potential to meet some of the region’s massive requirement for financing, such as for large investment projects or infrastructure development. Let’s do anything we can.

written on 12 Mar 2016

Next suggested article: Small but sure steps for ASEAN closer integration

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