Latest ASEAN news

Cambodia exports over 610,000 tonnes of milled rice in 2021

Cambodia exported 617,069 tonnes of milled rice from January to December 2021, netting more than $527 million.

The update was shared recently by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF), indicating that the total milled rice export decreased by 10.68 percent compared to 2020.

Of the exported milled rice, 457,415 tonnes or 74.13 percent were fragrant rice, while white rice accounted for 24.16 percent or 149,080 tonnes, and parboiled rice 1.71 percent or 10,574 tonnes.

China remains the biggest market importing 309,709 tonnes of Cambodian milled rice, followed by EU countries and ASEAN nations buying 155,773 tonnes and 63,165 tonnes of the product respectively.

The rest 88,422 tonnes of the milled rice were shipped to other destinations.

Additionally, the country exported 3.52 million tonnes of paddy rice to Vietnam, up 61.16 percent compared to the previous year, generating over $631 million. 

For full article, please read here 

Author: AKP-Phal Sophanith

Source: Khmer Times 

As RCEP kicks off, China mulls Cambodia hub for agri and industrial products

Cambodia’s high-quality agricultural products such as rice, bananas, mangoes, fragrant coconuts and cashews shall be exported to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc., which will effectively promote enterprises to improve efficiency and sustainable development


Bangkok Post – After much deliberation, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact came into effect from Jan 1, 2022. The pact was signed on Nov 15, 2020, by the 10 Asean member countries along with five Asean free trade agreement (FTA) partners. At least six members of Asean and three non-Asean nations then ratified the agreement.

RCEP is the world’s biggest FTA measured by GDP, larger than the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the EU, the Mercosur trade bloc in South America, and the recent US-Mexico-Canada FTA. RCEP is the first multilateral agreement to include China, and the first FTA between China and Japan as well as Japan and South Korea.

RCEP trade volumes tallied over $10.7 trillion, or 30.3% of global trade, in 2020.

Cambodia’s rice export to China alone surpassed 300,000 tons for the first time in 2021, marking another historic milestone in the rice sector between the two countries, according to a report from the China Certification & Inspection Group (CCIC)’s Cambodia branch published last week.

Similarly, Cambodia’s high-quality agricultural products such as rice, bananas, mangoes, fragrant coconuts, and cashews can also be exported to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc., which will effectively promote enterprises to improve efficiency and sustainable development.

The RCEP is designed to remove tariffs on 91% of goods, and standardise rules on investment, intellectual property and e-commerce among other trade practices. It aims to create an integrated market with 15 countries, making it easier for products and services from each of these countries to be available across this region.

For full article, please read here

Author: Bangkok Post 

Source: Khmer Times

Thailand: NIA touts 'innovation hub' aim

The National Innovation Agency (NIA) has vowed to make Bangkok an innovation hub in Asean attracting foreign investment in research and development (R&D) and startups by working with the government to amend the Foreign Business Act, which limits foreign shareholding to 49% of a business. It also aims to groom deep tech startups and expand innovation districts into the provinces.
The move is also part of its plan to raise Thailand's position in the Global Innovation Index from 43rd in 2021 and ensure Bangkok appears in the top 50 best cities for startups as the capital was ranked in 71st place in the Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021. "We will focus on building the country's brand as 'Innovation Thailand' and turning Bangkok into an innovation hub in Asean to increase new innovation and tech firms here," said Pun-arj Chairatana, executive director of the NIA.
Bangkok has a healthy startup ecosystem with large corporate firms heavily investing in tech areas and a number of corporate venture capital funds but there is a lack of multinational firms to invest in R&D in Thailand, so that is why the country's position in the Global Innovation Index has not improved much, he noted.
To achieve the target, NIA is working with the government to devise a regulation that will allow foreigners to wholly own a business in Thailand if they are registered as a tech and innovation developer and recruit employees to work in the country, he said. This would draw multinational firms to invest in R&D facilities in Thailand rather than just a production base or sales office. "It is time to open up the country for travelling mainly for business," said Mr Pun-arj.
NIA is also catching the metaverse trend by aiming to kick off an "NIA verse" campaign which would gather innovation firms as a community to capitalise on the metaverse opportunity in the first quarter of next year.
The agency also aims to build local innovation community ecosystem, not only in Bangkok, but also major cities, by increasing the number of innovation districts in the provinces, he said. The local ecosystem will connect local administrators, universities, policymakers and science parks with private firms and local citizens.
NIA has been working with the Board of Investment (BOI) to provide tax incentives for businesses in selected fields operating in innovation districts. At present, there are 12 innovation districts in Bangkok, 11 in the North and 12 in the Northeast. According to Mr Pun-arj, NIA is focusing on supporting local deep tech startups, particularly those in medical, food, defence, agriculture and artificial intelligence fields with a target of 100 deep tech startups by 2023, up from 60 now.
Source: Bangkok Post

Hoping for green development

The year 2022 looks to be an eventful one with activities that could have a big impact on Thailand, ranging from the country's hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit to the trial of the retail Central Bank Digital Currency (retail CBDC).


The 2022 Apec summit to be hosted by Thailand will mark a significant step toward the business sustainability goal, which is expected to become increasingly important post-pandemic. Governments are not only paying heed to their public health systems following the spread of Covid-19, which has ravaged economies, but they have also agreed to make environmental protection a crucial part of business growth. The Thai business sector will raise the bio-, circular and green (BCG) economic model, advanced by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government, for discussion and propose capital funding to help businesses in 21 countries during the Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac) meetings next year, which will provide advice to leaders.

"BCG is aimed to develop the economy through environmentally friendly measures, including decarbonisation," said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) and chairman of Abac. The FTI, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade and the Thai Bankers' Association represent the Thai business sector within Abac, which is made up of 63 members. Mr Supant said Abac will meet four times next year to discuss economic proposals aimed to liberalise and facilitate international trade and investment.

An informal meeting among state officials from Apec members got underway in Phuket earlier this month. Referred to as the Apec Informal Senior Officials' Meetings (SOM), the three-day meeting was aimed at discussing preparations and priorities for next year's meetings.

Thailand will place the long-delayed Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) at the top of the Apec agenda, Thani Thongphakdi, permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said after the first round of the SOM in Phuket.
He said the FTAAP will emphasise sustainable development goals for society, economies and the environment within the context of reopening safely in a post-Covid world. The FTAAP will be the future of Apec, said Auramon Supthaweethum, chief of the Trade Negotiations Department.

Thailand set the theme for the 2022 Apec summit as "Open. Connect. Balance", with a traditional Thai bamboo basket called a chalom selected as the logo. The interlaced bamboo strips, which are strong and durable, symbolise the resilience and strength of the regional economy and send a message promoting sustainability. The 21 member countries of Apec account for 38% of the world's population and around 59% of its GDP.

To continue reading this article please go to Bangkok Post, where the full length original article can be found. 

The digital decade of Southeast Asia

As the world resets and enters recovery mode following the devastating impact of COVID-19, access to the internet has become more crucial than ever. It has become such a powerful force in the global economy and an integral part of daily life in Southeast Asia that the region looks set to see its digital economy reach $1 trillion USD by 2030. 

Despite the turmoil, the internet economy continues to grow, with the global online population expected to reach 3.6 billion by 2020, seeing regions such as Southeast Asia enter the digital decade. 

This growth results from the rapid expansion of connectivity, increasing to 2.3 billion people by the end of 2019, adding 250 million more users to the 2018 number. The internet economy in Southeast Asia has flourished as, according to a new e-Conomy SEA report, 40 million new internet users came online in 2021 in the region. This increase now sets the internet penetration levels in ASEAN at 75%, well above the global average of 60%, with a total of 60 million new users coming online since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

The rise of eCommerce in Southeast Asia
Before the global health crisis, eCommerce in Southeast Asia was increasing rapidly. In 2019 93% of the region’s consumers searched online for products and services, and 88% visited eCommerce websites. However, only 83% purchased on the internet, with the majority of these sales, 69%, completed by mobile phone. 

With the onset of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and movement restrictions, people turned to the internet to purchase more of their daily needs. This drive towards eCommerce saw an estimated 70 million increase in online shoppers in six SEA countries.

Now, 8 out of 10 of SEA’s internet users are digital consumers, with Singapore leading the pack at 97%. However, it is not just new users who are bolstering the online economy. Those who regularly purchase from eCommerce sites have increased their spending and the frequency of completing transactions. Much of this increase in spending results from people wishing to minimise Coronavirus infection by avoiding shopping in person. 

One of the biggest winners in the move to online purchases was the food and beverage industry. With restaurants and bars closed or restricting hours or services during lockdowns, consumers had to embrace ordering through the internet. This need to stay at home led to around 26% of the region using food delivery services for the first time during the pandemic. 

Another sector to see a massive increase in online spending was the grocery industry. With people still requiring food and personal hygiene products in lockdown, this sector grew massively. New consumers reached 47%, with 34% of those who previously used grocery delivery services, increasing their reliance on them during the pandemic. 

Rise of digital services spending
It wasn’t just tangible goods that increased online sales. Digital services such as entertainment, education and fintech all saw increased activity in the past 18 months, with many consumers stating they used them four times more than previously. This increased digital services consumption trend is set to continue post-pandemic, with 8 out of 10 consumers saying they are satisfied with the services they have received and a retention rate of 9 out of 10 new users from 2020 to 2021. 

As people adjust to society’s new functionality, even more will use online banking services, such as eWallets. Already The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have seen exponential growth in digital wallet usage with gains in digital wallet adoption, at 133%, 87% and 82%, respectively. This growth is likely to continue as the impact of the pandemic begins to recede. 

Impact on business
When the COVID crisis began, many businesses, mainly the bricks and mortar stores, faced unimaginable challenges to stay afloat. Indeed, some sectors such as the entertainment and travel industries were decimated by the loss of revenue. The travel industry expects to lose approximately $4.5 billion USD due to the lack of tourism activity. The movie industry was equally hard hit, seeing a 72% reduction in revenue globally in 2020 from the previous year. 

With businesses suffering, they had to quickly pivot and embrace the online world in the hope to survive. Moving to internet business models was easier for some sectors than others, but even tourism and entertainment could claw back some losses by offering digital services. 

As the world dusts itself off and prepares to enter the digital decade, the internet economy in Southeast Asia is likely to continue its growth trajectory with an estimated gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $174 billion USD expected this year. This upward trend shows the digital economy increasing to $360 billion in 2025 and growing to $1 trillion USD by the decade’s end, great news for the emerging economies of Southeast Asia.

Global M&A Activity Likely to Remain Strong in 2022

Global M&A Activity Likely to Remain Strong in 2022

Companies are gearing up for another banner year for deal making.


Mergers and acquisitions hit a record in 2021, fueled by low interest rates, a surge in private-equity fundraising and companies' efforts to respond to broader shifts in their industries.

The total value of global M&A transactions through Dec. 21 was $5.7 trillion, up 64% from the same period a year before, according to Refinitiv, a data provider.

The total number of deals, meanwhile, rose 22% during that period, to 59,748, it said.

Many of the factors that propelled deal making in 2021 are expected to continue into next year, M&A lawyers and advisers said.

But policy changes on the horizon could damp the pace of corporate tie-ups, including interest-rate increases from the Federal Reserve -- which could increase companies' financing costs -- as well as increased scrutiny from antitrust regulators.

It also remains to be seen if new variants of Covid-19, for example Omicron, have an impact on corporate deal making, advisers said.

"We look at the big trends that have continued over the years and say, 'Are they more likely to continue or not?' And our conclusion is that, generally speaking, they are likely to continue going into next year." said David Harding, advisory partner at Bain & Co., a professional services firm.

Throughout the year, companies tapped into cash piles that they amassed early on during the pandemic to pursue M&A.

Cash and equivalents at companies in the S&P 500 increased 11% during the third quarter, to about $3.78 trillion, compared with the prior-year period, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Blockbuster transactions included AT&T Inc. and Discovery Inc.'s decision to merge their media assets into a new, publicly traded company.

Under the deal, AT&T will receive $43 billion, and AT&T shareholders will own 71% of the new company once the transaction closes.

Other big deals included Square Inc.'s move this summer to purchase buy-now-pay-later company Afterpay Ltd. for $29 billion, as well as Oracle Corp.'s agreement last week to acquire medical records company Cerner Corp. for $28.3 billion.

Square earlier this month renamed itself to Block Inc.

Finance chiefs at acquiring companies have contended with high valuations in deciding whether to commit to a transaction.

"What's different about now versus prior booms is…there's less price sensitivity, particularly in the technology industry,'' said Michael Diz, co-chair of the mergers and acquisitions group at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

Multiples for transactions -- calculated as the ratio of median enterprise value to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- increased across industries in 2021 compared with the prior year, according to Bain. The technology and healthcare sectors commanded the highest multiples, with 28 times and 24 times, respectively.

ChargePoint Holdings Inc., a Campbell, California-based maker of electric vehicle charging stations, closed on two acquisitions this year to expand its operations in Europe.

It acquired software firm Has-to-be for approximately €250 million, equivalent to around $283 million, in cash and stock, and bought ViriCiti, a fleet-electrification company, for about €75 million.

The company approached the two deals with the intention to be choosy, chief financial officer Rex Jackson said.

"It's going to be expensive because the space is richly valued, so let's make sure we get what we want," Mr. Jackson said, discussing the company's selection of targets.

Many companies during the pandemic revisited their portfolios and entered 2021 with a plan to sell business lines or buy companies as a means to expand. For instance, some companies acquired technology firms to improve their digital capabilities, while others scooped up competitors to expand sales.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. in November acquired Charlotte, N.C.-based Diamonds Direct USA Inc., a bridal jewelry retailer, for $490 million in cash.

The deal is meant to help Signet increase sales of what it calls "accessible luxury," according to Joan Hilson, the company's finance chief.

"The market is doing quite well in that tier, and we believe that we have room to take more share there," Ms. Hilson said.

Mergers with special-purpose acquisition companies this year accounted for 11% of transaction values globally through Dec. 8, up from 6% in the full-year 2020, according to Bain's analysis of data from Dealogic, a financial information company.

The surge in investor interest in SPACs this year is expected to spur additional deal making in 2022, since the firms, which are essentially publicly traded pools of cash, typically have a two-year window to make an acquisition.

SPACs can act as a broader stimulus for deal making by prompting firms that might not have been ready to sell to consider transactions, according to Brian Salsberg, global head of the integration practice at professional services firm Ernst & Young.

Private-equity and venture-capital firms also increased their share of total M&A transaction values in 2021 by about two percentage points from 2020, to 19% and 8%, respectively, Bain said.

Looking ahead to 2022, a host of economic factors suggest deal making will remain strong, including growing U.S. gross domestic product, strong corporate earnings and large corporate cash balances, said Colin Wittmer, U.S. deals leader at accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Still, U.S. regulators are applying more scrutiny to large transactions, particularly in the technology sector, deal advisers said.

The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month sued to block U.S. chip maker Nvidia Corp.'s proposed acquisition of Arm Holdings, a semiconductor firm.

FTC chairwoman Lina Khan has said she aims to challenge more corporate mergers and allegedly monopolistic practices.

Companies nonetheless are looking for ways to put the cash they have raised during the pandemic to work, advisers said.

U.S. investment-grade bond sales declined slightly in 2021 from their peak in 2020, when companies built up liquidity to weather the economic shock caused by the pandemic.

Businesses raised $1.4 trillion through Dec. 21 by selling such bonds, down 22% from a year earlier, Refinitiv said.

The continuing surge in private-equity funding will also be a factor in M&A in 2022, particularly in the technology and healthcare sectors, advisers said.

Private-equity and venture-capital firms globally raised about $1 trillion through Dec. 21, up 35% from the end of 2020, according to Refinitiv.

It is too soon to say whether next year will surpass the M&A records set in 2021, but corporate advisers said there appear to be few factors to significantly slow it down.



How the UK-Singapore digital trade deal will help businesses, consumers

Singapore and the United Kingdom (UK) have substantially concluded negotiations on the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA) on Thursday.

The agreement covers key areas of the digital economy, such as data, as well as a wide range of emerging and innovative areas such as artificial intelligence, fintech, digital identities and legal technology, according to a statement jointly issued by Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Here is a look at some of the key features of the agreement and how they will help businesses and consumers.

1. Electronic payments (e-payments)

Promote rules for development of software that allow two applications to talk to each other and adopt internationally accepted standards to promote interoperability between e-payment systems.

2. Paperless trading

Accept electronic versions of trade documents, facilitate cross-border digitalisation of supply chains, and promote interoperability of electronic documents such as bills of lading and invoices. This will enable faster and cheaper transactions, and reduce costs for businesses.

3. Cross-border data flows

Businesses in the two countries will be allowed to transfer information, including those which are generated or held by financial institutions, more seamlessly across borders with the assurance that they meet the requisite regulations.


4. Prohibit data localisation

This essentially means that both countries will allow businesses to choose where their data is stored.


5. Cryptography

This refers to protecting information by transforming it into a secure format. Neither country will require the transfer of, or access to, technologies used in cryptography by a company as a condition of market access.

6. Online consumer protection

Adopt or maintain laws and regulations that guard against fraudulent, misleading or deceptive conduct that causes harm to consumers engaged in online commercial activities.

7. Small and medium-sized enterprises cooperation

Singapore and the UK will seek to cooperate in promoting jobs and growth for SMEs, as well as encourage their participation in e-commerce platforms that will help link them with international suppliers, buyers, and potential business partners.


Source: The Straits Times (Singapore)


US eyes 'powerful' Asia economic deal on coordination on supply chains, export controls, standards for AI

The Biden administration aims to sign what could prove a "very powerful" economic framework agreement with Asian nations - focusing on areas including coordination on supply chains, export controls and standards for artificial intelligence - next year, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

"It's a priority for the president," Raimondo, speaking in a roundtable discussion on Thursday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York, said of deepening US engagement with Asia. "America didn't show up in that region for four years," she said, alluding to the Trump administration's record.

Raimondo said that her trip to Asia last month was designed to "assess appetite" for economic dialog, under the condition that President Joe Biden's team isn't planning to take up traditional trade talks. She underscored that rejoining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership "as presented" is off the table.


"The demand for US presence and the demand for US reengagement was off the charts," said Raimondo, who stopped in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan last month. What the administration envisions is a "new kind of economic framework for a new economy," and the hope is to, "early in the new year, first quarter of next year, officially launch a process," she said.

The framework will be "flexible," with some countries perhaps not signing up to all of the elements, Raimondo said.

She said the aim is to engage not just developed nations such as Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand but also emerging economies such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.


"I would love 12 months from now to be coming back here with something signed saying we've made progress," the Commerce chief said. She said the agreement may not "culminate" in something that would require approval by the US Congress - which is needed for traditional trade agreements.

"It won't be a trade deal, but it could be very powerful."

Supply chains for critical goods including semiconductors are a particular focus, Raimondo said. The goal is "robust, long-term collaborations around supply chains" that addresses what has been a lack of coordination among producers and users, she said.

On the domestic US front, Raimondo cited the benefit of the government convening "stakeholders" at the same table to increase transparency and trust around supply chains.

The Democratic former governor of Rhode Island also said that she could see some non-American companies benefiting from the US$54 billion of emergency appropriations to help bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the US that Congress is now debating. The key is that the production is done in the US, she said.

"It is a problem for America that we are so reliant on Taiwan" for semiconductors today, Raimondo said.

Another element of the Asia economic framework is working to harmonize export controls to limit sensitive products that head to China "and other autocratic regimes," Raimondo said. "The devil is deeply in the details" on export controls, she also said, because measures shouldn't be "overly broad," such that they deny revenue that companies need to plow into their research and development.

"If America puts export controls vis-a-vis China on a certain part of our semiconductor equipment, but our allies don't do the same thing, and China can therefore get that equipment from our ally, that's not effective," Raimondo said.

A third area for the new framework is writing technical standards and rules for artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, Raimondo said. "Working with our allies to together define the standards of what is responsible, ethical artificial intelligence - that's massively valuable."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday at a regular press briefing in Beijing that the US has been abusing its power to politicise issues involving trade and technology.

He also accused Washington of trying to "set up barriers to undermine international rules and sever the global market."

It's unclear whether what the Biden administration envisions meets the level of economic engagement that some Asian economies have called for. Japan and others have urged Washington to reconsider former President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the CPTPP deal, which had been the key economic pillar of a strategy to bolster US-led opposition to China.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said last week that while "over the past decades, the US security presence has brought stability and peace in the region," for that to stretch "into the next decades, the US cannot afford to be absent from the region's evolving economic architecture." BLOOMBERG


Source: The Business Times (Singapore)


Solar powering renewable targets in ASEAN

AS a region familiar with the fearsome potential of natural disasters - 80 per cent of the Asean region is surrounded by water and is prone to water-related disasters - the heat has been on, both literally and figuratively to tackle climate change.

One of the ways economies are doing this is by pouring more investments into renewable energy, improving their urban planning, and reducing consumption.

According to the report Southeast Asia's Green Economy: Opportunities On The Road To Net Zero, South-east Asia needs US$2 trillion of investment this decade to cut emissions and remain competitive globally.


Released in September, the report, by Bain & Company, Microsoft and Temasek Holdings, also noted that acting now could lead to about US$1 trillion in economic opportunities with new growth areas contributing about 6 to 8 per cent to the region's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

It also picked up on 3 areas the region should focus on: transiting to green energy; valuing nature; and transforming the agri-food sector to make it more efficient, less polluting and less environmentally damaging.

Within the renewable energy space, solar power is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the region largely due to how quickly it can be rolled out, said Jasper Wong, head of construction and infrastructure, sector solutions group at UOB.


It also helps that the cost of solar installation has dropped significantly. According to Data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), solar photovoltaics showed the sharpest cost decline over 2010-2019 at 82 per cent.

Concentrating solar power ranked second at 47 per cent, followed by onshore wind (40 per cent) and offshore wind at 29 per cent.

"You can roll out rooftop solar in 3 months or less. Ground-mounted solar panels, depending on how big the size is, can be done within 18 months," said Wong.

"Meanwhile, a 600 MW gas-fired power plant will take three and a half to 4 years before it can generate electricity," he said.

"Solar is quite interesting in that once you finish a section, as long as the power is connected to an inverter and the grid, you can start sending power to the grid. It can be scaled up thereafter. That's the beauty of solar projects."

A hot market

South-east Asia is prime for renewable energy growth, said UOB. With countries in the region having renewable energy targets of up to 37 per cent of total energy mix by 2037, this translates to more than 125 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity installation between 2020 and 2040.

Solar is expected to be one of the fastest growth areas at 6.5 per cent per annum accounting for close to a third of the total new renewable energy capacity installed, said Wong.

Indeed, their solar financing programme U-Solar has facilitated the generation of 210 gigawatt hours of solar power across Asean as at August 2021, since its launch in October 2019.

This has helped reduce more than 113,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions - equivalent to having close to 1.87 million new tree seedlings grow over 10 years or taking close to 25,000 cars off the road for a year.

Their U-Solar Programme is available in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. They currently have 15 partners, and are onboarding "1 or 2 more" in the first quarter of next year.

Their programme has attracted numerous awards including the Asset Triple A Country Awards for Best Green Loan in Thailand (Sustainable Finance) in 2020; a Special Award for Sustainable Financing (Conventional Financing) at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Malaysia's Energy Energy Awards 2020; and the Asian Banking & Finance Wholesale Banking Awards' Singapore Domestic Initiative of the Year in 2021.

U-Solar was also selected as a winner in the Sustainable Solutions, Non-SME Category in the 2021 Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards.

Just as importantly, the impact is being felt on the ground.

Charlotte's Beauty Lounge in Jakarta, Indonesia, for instance, installed 6 kW solar system on their rooftop and saw their electricity bill, which was about S$500 per month, halved.

"Plus, because they only operate 6 days a week, they sold the electricity they generated back to the grid. So on top of (the savings), they were able to sell back to the grid and get certain rebates from the electricity company for selling green power to the community," said Wong.

The green way forward

In preparation for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) which commenced on Oct 31, Asean member states released a joint statement that reaffirmed their commitments to tackle the climate emergency.

They also highlighted that the region had achieved 21 per cent energy intensity reduction, surpassing its aspirational target of 13.9 per cent renewable energy share.

Earlier this year, Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the national roadmap towards sustainable development and net-zero emissions.

Solar energy solutions provider Sunseap Group has secured a S$85.8 million loan for its SolarNova 4 project to install solar photovoltaic systems across more than 1,200 public housing blocks and 49 government sites.

The loans are provided by UOB and DBS Bank, utilising Sunseap's Green Financing Framework. SolarNova 4, which has a capacity of 70 megawatts-peak (MWp) (potentially up to 102 MWp).

It is estimated to generate 96,775 megawatt-hour (MWh), equivalent to powering up to 20,400 public housing 4-room flats and potentially offset more than 68,583 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum.

"This is quite significant because given Singapore's size, you don't usually see a lot of ability to scale up for rooftop solar," said Wong.

The country has turned to creative ways to harvest more solar energy. These include the world's largest inland floating solar farms at Tengeh Reservoir, and trialling the use of vertical solar panels.

Separately, the Energy Market Authority has granted in-principle approval on a pilot project to import 100 MW of solar power from Indonesia to Singapore.

Neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Thailand have also traditionally been supportive with their sustainable policies, noted Wong.

Indonesia meanwhile, has unveiled an ambitious 2021 electricity supply business plan (2021 RUPTL), the country's first-ever shift from relying mostly on fossil fuel generation towards renewables.

Vietnam notably made substantial progress to its energy capacity since 2018, with a large component of it being renewable solar power. Last year, they pulled off a 25-fold increase in its solar capacity, with incentives for homes and businesses to install rooftop solar panels leading to the boom, as reported by the World Economic Forum.

"We have financed 24 MW in Vietnam already, for local Vietnamese corporates on a rooftop basis," said Wong.

"This is something we want to do more and we're looking at helping UOB Vietnam scale up their solar lending programme."


Source: The Business Times (Singapore)


ASEAN for Business Bulletin Dec 2021: Highlights of ASEAN's Private Sector Engagement

One hundred fifteen engagements between the private sector and ASEAN sectoral bodies as well as the ASEAN Secretariat took place from January to mid-November 2021, marking an increase of 64% compared to the engagements held in 2020.  This December issue of ASEAN for Business Bimonthly Bulletin highlights the private sector's involvement and contribution to building the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2021.

Laos Announces Travel Conditions for 2022 Reopening

Laos has officially announced it will reopen for tourism on 1 January 2022, providing more information on travel conditions during a press conference held at the Lao National Convention Center today.

According to the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, the reopening will be implemented in three phases.

The first phase will be from 1 January to 30 March 2022, the second phase from 1 April 2022 to 30 June 2022, and the third phase from 1 July 2022 onward.

According to the ministry, tourists from an initial list of countries will be allowed to travel to the country during the first phase.

The list of countries includes China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, France, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, United States, Canada, and Australia.

Tourism will be restricted to group tours at first, with tours arranged by authorized tour operators under the Lao Travel Green Zone Plan.

Tourists will be required to have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no less than 14 days prior to arrival. Other conditions include a health insurance policy with coverage no less than USD 50,000 and a negative RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours.

Arrivals will be tested for Covid-19 and placed in a 24-hour quarantine in their hotel until a negative result is found.

Tourists will be required to download and register via the LaoKYC and the LaoStaySafe mobile applications prior to arriving in the country, as well as uploading their relevant vaccination certification and Covid-19 test results...

Source: Laotian Times

cr: laotiantimes. 

Business roadmap to innovation

Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the Tech Hub Developer of Cyberjaya recently hosted its fourth Tech Talk Webinar series for 2021, themed ‘Maximising Return on Innovation for Business Growth’. The panel session focused on the importance of measuring Return on Innovation and how businesses can realise their innovation goals through the Cyberjaya ecosystem. The panellists were Angel Low, Principal, The HIVE Southeast Asia; Dr. Afnizanfaizal Abdullah, Chief Technology Officer of Aerodyne and cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of Synapse Innovation; and Karamjit Singh, founder, Digital News Asia.
During the session, Angel highlighted “Despite businesses turning towards digital transformation, they are not innovating to the extent that encompasses a wide range of areas. They are innovating [to fulfill] the change in consumer demands, which shows that they are merely being reactive instead of realising the true potential of innovation. Businesses need to look into incorporating innovation to improve operational efficiency, which will enable them to enhance their value chains and ultimately increase market share.”
After completing their first close in May 2021, The Hive Southeast Asia, one of eight VCs selected by the Ministry of Finance under its Dana Penjana National Programme to manage a co-creation and seed fund on a 1:1 matching, is targeting to raise and deploy a total of US$11.8 million (RM50 million) or more to facilitate the growth of startups with strategic corporate partners and create an enabling environment to scale and expand their reach on the global stage.
Artificial intelligence and big data expert, Afnizanfaizal discussed the pivotal role of innovation for businesses to gain a competitive edge. “Under the current economic landscape, being a pioneer does not guarantee market survival, but [being an] innovator enables you to shift and meet the demands. At Synapse Innovation, technology adoption by customers is used as a metric to measure the success of innovation investments. The fundamental aspect of innovation is establishing a clear roadmap, which is one of the key learnings that our company gained from the Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator (CLLA) programme. Having a roadmap enables progress when it comes to the development of innovative solutions while also building business resiliency.”
Meanwhile, Karamjit zoomed in on the significance of having senior leadership that values innovation and uses it to seize opportunities in the market. “Innovation is more than just a buzzword. Innovation is about making things better, and it requires time, patience support as well as a collective effort. Businesses need to cultivate a mindset that innovation will make a difference for a better future. The Covid-19 pandemic has fostered a potent environment for innovation that business leaders should seize.” He urges companies to be proactive to take advantage of the programs and incentives that the government has provided for accessing funding, expertise and other benefits.
“Don’t sit back and wait for government to come knock on your door to help you. Help yourself to the various programs in the market.” Karamjit believes that with the government’s digital strategy, as encapsulated by MyDigital and the objectives set in the 12th Malaysia Plan, underpinned by a robust fibre broadband infrastructure and with 5G to rapidly start rolling out soon, Malaysia has the right ingredients – from a policy and infrastructure perspective, to encourage and spur an innovation-led economy.