Oct 16, 2012

Indonesia - Indonesia says integration must not forget the poor

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Further integration and economic growth in Asean should not focus on liberalisation alone, but also take into account inclusivity and poverty, two issues that need more attention across the region, said Indonesian Finance Minister Mahendra Siregar.

"We have reduced tariffs, opened up the services and capital market, but this is a time where the integration of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will need to take into account the issue of inclusiveness. It has to address equity challenges within countries and among countries," Mr Siregar told the Bangkok Post.

He said expanding the AEC agenda will make the initiative more sustainable, given that liberalisation usually benefits large businesses and only certain groups.

Asean needs to promote the agenda of inclusivity, including those who have not benefited from recent growth or those still below the poverty line and who lack access to financial capital.

"I think it is important to take note that in regional integration, not only is it important to bring growth, but also create a region of greater peace and stability," Mr Siregar said, pointing to the success of the European Union in maintaining peace within the continent over the past several decades.

Asean governments individually are doing their part towards maintaining peace and stability, but not in the most optimal way.

"We should hold discussions within Asean on this matter, as it still needs further work," said Mr Siregar.

He said Indonesia's trade, once mostly with the US, Japan, Europe and other advanced economies, now sees over half of total exports going to emerging markets.

Mr Siregar said Asean should also take steps to strengthen the regional banking and financial sectors in addition to supporting long-term interdependence.

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