Time for a little AEC realism, part 2
Last issue we covered a few of the general concerns of those on the outside looking in at the approaching AEC.
One of these independent operations (cariasean.org) published a fairly comprehensive paper in April this year outlining what it saw as some of the negatives which were being glossed over by both governments and interested parties and largely ignored by the local media.
Cariasean.org highlighted competition policy, as one example. ‘In this sector all AMS [ASEAN member states] are “on green” suggesting that “all measures targeted in this area were implemented.”
This self-assessment, however, could not be further away from reality. The [member states] are at different stages in the development of competition policy and law (CPL) and, hence, ASEAN is still far away from a “highly competitive economic region” based on a harmonised regional competition regime. In other words it’s not yet near a level playing field for all companies in the region.
‘While Malaysia (since 1 January 2012), Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam already have competition polices and laws (CPL) in place, Cambodia and Philippines are currently in the process of drafting their respective CPL, while the Lao PDR plans to introduce national CPL soon. Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar are in various stages of consideration and development as regards the introduction of nation-wide CPL but have not finalised any provisions yet. Furthermore, the scorecard does not measure actual enforcement of completion Acts and similar legal instruments.’
That last sentence is important. It’s all very well for the various member states to enact the required legislation, it’s a completely different scenario if that legislation and the various regulations are not adhered to or policed. After all, as a prosaic example, Thailand’s traffic regulations have provisions covering speeding, and driving while under the influence of alcohol, and the wearing of seatbelts and the like, yet enforcement is very much ad hoc. There is no consistency in the application of legal provisions and so it’s no surprise the country has one of the highest accident rates in the world.
Similarly, although sections of the AEC framework are already in place, the enforcement or overseeing of these across the 10 member states is often ad hoc, according to independent analysts.
In a competitiveness survey conducted by the 2011-12 ASEAN Business Advisory Council which collated responses from businesses across all ASEAN countries, comprising a mix of small, medium and large firms, most of which had been in business for 10 years or more and had trade/investment linkages within ASEAN and had at least general knowledge of ASEAN policy initiatives, there was ‘a clear gap between the relatively high importance attached by businesses to AEC Blueprint implementation and their average level of satisfaction with ASEAN’s implementation.’