Aquino to ASEAN: SMEs key to economic integration

Natashya Gutierrez
President Aquino urges the ASEAN Business Advisory Council to guide ASEAN governments in supporting regional small and medium enterprises ahead of 2015

SMEs. President Benigno Aquino III urges ASEAN to focus on supporting SMEs, which he calls the key to success of the ASEAN Economic Community. Malacañang Photo Bureau

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in ASEAN.

This was the recommendation of President Benigno Aquino III to the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and fellow ASEAN leaders at the meeting here on Thursday evening, November 13, before the closing ceremony of the 25th ASEAN Summit and its related summits.

Aquino said competitive SMEs that are able to make the most of regional integration is “the key to the success of our economic integration.”

“The Philippines believes that ASEAN’s road to economic development and integration by 2015 must allocate a paramount role of Small and Medium Enterprises in the region,” he said.

Aquino cited the Asian Development Bank in saying 96% of all businesses in the region are from SMEs, which contribute up to 53% of the region’s gross domestic product.

ABAC, the President said, can “play a crucial role” in supporting SMEs and ensuring successful integration.

“It can provide private sector feedback and guidance to ASEAN governments, ensuring that our efforts towards economic integration are in sync with the needs of our peoples,” he said. “This helps ensure that benefits of growth and development reach all levels of society.”

In the Philippines alone, Aquino said the 99.6% of commercial enterprises are SMEs. He talked about the country’s initiatives in making it easier to do business in the country, including making it easier for SMEs to access services through newly-established hubs, and helping SMEs become more competitive in domestic and international markets through the SME Roving Academy.

Talks on an integrated ASEAN Economic Community 2015 have dominated the agenda in Myanmar, particularly looking beyond integration. Nations have expressed excitement over the benefits integration could bring, but acknowledged it has yet to fulfill 20% of its targets as outlined under the 3 ASEAN Community Blueprints. –