THE private sector will play a crucial role in helping southeast Asian countries offset the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said.
At the 18th Management Association of the Philippines International CEO web conference on Tuesday, Jock Hoi said no individual country could combat Covid-19 alone.
He appealed to Asean member-countries to work together to fight the contagion and bounce back together.
“Indeed, this unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented action from everyone. Your contribution as business and industry leaders will be key in ensuring swift and robust recovery for the region,” he told the participants.
He said the private sector could help Asean government in three areas — stabilizing supply chains, adopting new emerging trends such as digitalization and partnering with the government to address economic resilience.
“This pandemic has demonstrated how the disruption in the supply chain exposed the region to more vulnerabilities. As economies reopen it is crucial that companies are able to support business continuity to transport supplier engagement and flexible adjustment of the production and operation,” he said.
“The supply chain connectivity is crucial to optimize the potential inter-regional trade and investment that has underpinned the region’s economic growth over the years,” he added.
He said the private sector should adopt new trends as digitalization to support the recovery of nations.
“Evidence has shown that the use of digital technologies during this pandemic has unleashed productivity improvement in the way people work and interact,” Jock Hoi stressed.
“While the government can undertake investment in digital infrastructure, the private sector can also engage in addressing critical needs related to digital technology, digital skill, better government and cyber security,” he said.
“Finally, the pandemic presented an opportunity for the private sector to step up action and work hand in hand with the government to address long-term economic resilience,” he said.
The private sector can also help promote a low-carbon economy by investing in green infrastructure “and taking advantage of financial incentive from the government to deal with climate resilient technologies that can create more jobs and economic growth.”
Another promising area is in “sustainable financing,” he pointed out. The private sector can support the government to establish fund to support small businesses and households.
“Asean will stand together, with each other with the global community and its stakeholders in fighting Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
The secretary-general warned that by the end of this year, Asean is seen to contract for the first time in 22 years.
“Even if recovery is achieved, the post pandemic world will not return to business as usual. Our world has been irreversibly transformed by Covid-19. And these calls for equal transformative response,” he added.
Another speaker at the forum, economist Jeffrey Sachs, said the Philippines must strengthen its cooperation with other countries to address the crisis brought by the pandemic.
Sachs said that except in the Philippines and Indonesia, countries in Southeast Asia have taken the virus under control.
“So, the good news is, it’s possible to control this pandemic. And I very much hope that the Philippines could learn the lessons of the neighbors, all around you — north, south to Australia, New Zealand, to your neighbors in Asean to get this epidemic under control through serious public health means,” Sachs said.
He noted that each country should test, trace, quarantine, and observe physical distancing to contain the epidemic.
“There’s not enough testing underway in the Philippines unfortunately. There needs to be much more,” the economist added.