Thursday February 4, 2010

Nazir: Appoint minister to promote Asean

BANGKOK: Asean member countries must have a minister to promote and champion the grouping’s causes within each country as the region moves towards integration by 2015, CIMB group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Tun Razak said.

“We know that the best ideas will not be well-received unless it is well-explained.

“Yet who is marketing Asean? And until we do, we shouldn’t assume that the public will resist regional economic integration,” he told Thailand Management Association’s Top Talk here yesterday.

Nazir said little would be reported on Asean except when government leaders gathered at summits.

In between, he said, each government would tend to prioritise national politics and projects.

He said Asean should change its logo and that a rebranding exercise could be a powerful expression of a new era. “There is an urgent need to re-energise and transform the Asean agenda,” he said.

Nazir said the grouping’s secretariat and governments needed to develop a deeper Asean consciousness to face the hard realities of economic integration and, in the spirit of new age, adopt more aggressive and even unorthodox strategies.

“It is the Asian century. We will enjoy much more if we team up as one region in this new world order where size and speed of action matter more than ever,” he said.

He said there was an urgency for Asean to progress as an economic entity, apart from dealing with the micro realities and got more aggressive at the macro level.

“Can we not strategically capitalise on the strengths of each country today?

“Malaysia’s connectivity to the Middle East and leadership in Islamic finance puts it in a prime position to attract petro-dollar investments into Asean, yet why is Singapore talking about becoming an Islamic finance hub?,” Nazir said.

He said it would be not too soon to start leveraging on each other through cross-national business cooperation and government incentives rather than competing on all fronts.

“Of course, a lot of painful negotiations will be required and certainly there are domestic political realities to manage,” he said.

On the capital market, Nazir said a lot more progress had been made but it had been focused on the harmonisation of rules and regulations which were useful but clearly the least contentious.

“The reality is that we need a merger of national exchanges to stay relevant in the new securities landscape.

“Unfortunately, no one dares to tackle this issue and some national exchanges are instead spending more time courting non-Asean exchanges,” he said.

Asean, he said, also needed to create regional institutions that would help develop its capital market.

“It is logical for there to be at least one Asean rating agency, with economies of scale to build stronger internal capabilities and enhance credibility to stand tall at the global level,” he said.

On the banking sector, Nazir said regional banks would be catalysts for the greater flows of goods and services.

“The truth, however, is that we remain frustrated with the lack of commitment by national governments, bureaucracies and the public at large to Asean.

“We have faced numerous challenges in trying to regionalise our business,” he said. — Bernama

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