ASEAN Secretariat Needs More Muscle, Says Air Asia’s Fernandes

SINGAPORE, Aug 23 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Network ASEAN Forum 2013 (NAF) Convener Tony Fernandes says the regional secretariat needs more “meat and muscle”.

Speaking at the aviation roundtable session of the inaugural Network Asean Forum (NAF) here today, he added: “I would like to see the Asean Secretary General having greater power and influence on the economic direction.

“This is so that we can channel our regional proposals to one body, which will then disseminate them to the different Asean governments.”

His comments were reflective of the current state of the Asean market, which remains a largely fragmented region comprising a hodgepodge of local regulations and standards.

Participants were unanimous in noting the near limitless potential of Asean as a key global trade and production base, whilst agreeing that much work remained to be done in ensuring seamless integration.

The one-day inaugural NAF saw captains of industry from the region gather to thrash out issues that continue to stand in the way of the formation of an integrated Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

Central to the forum was the sector-based “Lifting the Barriers’ roundtable sessions.

These roundtable sessions saw participants discussing issues specific to six key sectors, namely, aviation, connectivity, infrastructure, power and utilities(IPU), capital markets, financial services and healthcare.

Universal themes that emerged from the three morning sessions roundtables of aviation, connectivity and IPU included the need for Asean-wide regulations, better communication and cooperation between key industry players and the abolishment of protectionist policies.

The lack of a single Asean regulator in any industry and the proliferation of non-binding agreements has also played a role in preventing greater collaboration.

“We have identified a number of barriers to integration which includes the lack of transparency, issues of nationalism in investment, and of changing goalposts,” said the CEO of Ayala Corporation and IPU roundtable chair,Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Indosat and the chair for the connectivity roundtable, Alexander Rusli, said there was a need to view Asean as a “single unit of business”.

“We need to build an ecosystem through the Asean spirit with one set of standards defined across the board.

“The end game has to be that (in the case of connectivity), wherever we bring our devices, charges have to be transparent and the user experience must be seamless. Otherwise, people will find other modes of communication,” he added.

The outcome of the six roundtable discussions will be reflected in policy recommendations which will be published and presented to the policymakers.

The NAF is an event hosted by the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI), a public organisation committed to the development of the Asean Economic Community.

CARI is also the secretariat of the Asean Business Club, a coalition of private sector players committed to the Asean agenda.