Few in ASEAN aware of upcoming integration (video)

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ASEAN1The majority of the 600-million population in ASEAN are unaware of upcoming changes in the ten-member bloc, especially about new measures that are intended to make trade, movement of labour, taxation and free flow of capital easier.

This was the result of a panel discussion held at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar from June 5-7.

“The reality is, if you take a drive out of Jakarta for a mere 15 to 20 minutes you will meet up with so many people who still don’t have a clue as to what the ASEAN Economic Community is and what it means to Indonesia,” said Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

Serge Pun, executive chairman of Singapore-listed Myanmar conglomerate Yoma Strategic Holdings, said that businesses were not familiar with how things will change when the ASEAN Economic Community takes effect on December 31, 2015.

“We talk about ASEAN integration and we actually don’t know what we are going to integrate. Or at least, the vast population doesn’t. The vast number of businesses doesn’t. A few government officials may. So there’s a lot of concern about what is this zero tax, how does it really affect us, does it benefit us or does it hurt us. There’s no answer,” Pun said.

With regards to free movement of labour, theory and practice are far apart from each other. Some restrictions, such as visa requirements for some member states, will remain. Richer states in ASEAN such as Singapore and Brunei are not going to allow labourers from other ASEAN member states to flock in, on the contrary, Singapore just has closed its borders to all but highly specialised experts. Even Thailand has shown growing reservations towards foreign workers.

No wonder: Singaporeans have an average per capita income of $49,754 a year, while Myanmar is at the bottom of the rankings with $1,040.

The deadline for the AEC, originally set for the beginning of 2015, has already been pushed back to December 31, 2015 and pessimists say that this won’t be the last postponement.

But there are doubts that even this target can be reached. Many issues remain unresolved, such as an open sky agreement for the airline industry, farmers’ subsidies, fuel subsidies, joint skills development or tax alignments. Most of all, the huge socio-economic differences between the member countries are seen as a major hindrance for economic integration. The member countries have also stated that there will be no common currency for ASEAN because this was “impossible”.

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The majority of the 600-million population in ASEAN are unaware of upcoming changes in the ten-member bloc, especially about new measures that are intended to make trade, movement of labour, taxation and free flow of capital easier.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ASEAN1The majority of the 600-million population in ASEAN are unaware of upcoming changes in the ten-member bloc, especially about new measures that are intended to make trade, movement of labour, taxation and free flow of capital easier.

This was the result of a panel discussion held at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar from June 5-7.

“The reality is, if you take a drive out of Jakarta for a mere 15 to 20 minutes you will meet up with so many people who still don’t have a clue as to what the ASEAN Economic Community is and what it means to Indonesia,” said Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

Serge Pun, executive chairman of Singapore-listed Myanmar conglomerate Yoma Strategic Holdings, said that businesses were not familiar with how things will change when the ASEAN Economic Community takes effect on December 31, 2015.

“We talk about ASEAN integration and we actually don’t know what we are going to integrate. Or at least, the vast population doesn’t. The vast number of businesses doesn’t. A few government officials may. So there’s a lot of concern about what is this zero tax, how does it really affect us, does it benefit us or does it hurt us. There’s no answer,” Pun said.

With regards to free movement of labour, theory and practice are far apart from each other. Some restrictions, such as visa requirements for some member states, will remain. Richer states in ASEAN such as Singapore and Brunei are not going to allow labourers from other ASEAN member states to flock in, on the contrary, Singapore just has closed its borders to all but highly specialised experts. Even Thailand has shown growing reservations towards foreign workers.

No wonder: Singaporeans have an average per capita income of $49,754 a year, while Myanmar is at the bottom of the rankings with $1,040.

The deadline for the AEC, originally set for the beginning of 2015, has already been pushed back to December 31, 2015 and pessimists say that this won’t be the last postponement.

But there are doubts that even this target can be reached. Many issues remain unresolved, such as an open sky agreement for the airline industry, farmers’ subsidies, fuel subsidies, joint skills development or tax alignments. Most of all, the huge socio-economic differences between the member countries are seen as a major hindrance for economic integration. The member countries have also stated that there will be no common currency for ASEAN because this was “impossible”.

 

 

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