Latest ASEAN news

Exporters told to equip for weapons rule

The catch-all control measure highlighted in current legislation will soon come into force

Exporters are being urged to prepare for the implementation of the catch-all control (CAC) measure in the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2019 this year.

Preparatory steps include setting up an internal compliance programme (ICP) to prevent trade activities pertaining to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as well as monitoring compliance with the export control legislation.

Dhadchyarbhon Abhimontejchbud, deputy director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade (DFT), said the CAC measure will soon come into force as part of the new act that became a law early last year.

The measure controls the export, re-export, transshipment, transit and technology and software controls of dual-use items (DUIs) and DUI-related items that pose a risk of being used in connection with the proliferation of WMD.

Mr Dhadchyarbhon said the DFT recently issued a notification on the criteria for ICP certification.

The new act is in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution No.1540 from April 28, 2004, and related resolutions requesting member states establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of WMD, including the control of related materials, such as DUIs, that could be assembled, developed, enhanced and/or treated by any other means in relation to WMD.

The law also establishes controls upon the end-user of such items.

ICP scheme vital

Mr Dhadchyarbhon advised Thai exporters to accelerate setting up an ICP scheme, which is a voluntary system operated by the private sector to monitor DUIs through a network to collect products, users, and end-user data.

These systems will be certified by government agencies and evaluated once a year, he said.

Companies that have ICPs established do not need to worry about their exports breaching the law, said Mr Dhadchyarbhon.

Japan already implemented an ICP scheme, while the EU enforced a similar act, adopting the list of all products prescribed by the UN.

"The department encourages the private sector to set up ICPs that meet international standards as well as a network to collaborate with government agencies to control DUI exports, re-export, transit, transshipment, technology and software transfers," he said.

"ICP schemes benefit exporters by clearly outlining the data of users and end-users for the government if their products are subject to export checks. Without an ICP, if their products attract the suspicion of intelligence agencies, their exports may be halted or held back by governments."

Thai companies with parent firms abroad in the EU, the US and Japan are fully aware of issues relating to WMD, but Thai firms have little knowledge of the law, said Mr Dhadchyarbhon.


Regarding DUI products related to WMD, he said Thailand referred to the EU's list in 2019 that featured 1,813 items for industrial products such as electronics, electrical appliances, computers, plastics, mechanical machinery, as well as chemicals.

Mr Dhadchyarbhon said amid the pandemic, Covid-19 variants are included on the export control lists because they can not only be used to produce vaccines, but also for nefarious means such as the production of biological weapons.

Drones able to fly with a 300-kilometre range are also regarded as DUIs because they could be used to collect data for R&D or as a form of missile for terrorism purposes, he said.

"Although Thailand is not a key exporter of DUI, the country has a geographic location that makes it easier for the re-export, transit and transshipment of products. Border trade volume has also been increasing for a number of years," said Mr Dhadchyarbhon.

"It is important entrepreneurs be aware of their buyers and the destination of end-users of their products."


He said violators under Section 28 of the act are liable to imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine of up to 200,000 baht, or both if the government finds their goods fall in an unsafe category and they do not provide clarification.

If a violation is committed with the intent to export an item that could lead to the proliferation of WMD and cause harm to people, or to design, develop, manufacture, operate, modify, store, or transport WMD, or to acquire WMD, the defendant is liable to imprisonment of up to 10 years, or a fine of up to 1 million baht, or both, said Mr Dhadchyar- bhon.

Violators may also face a penalty under Section 244 of the Customs Act, which stipulates that any persons who import, export, or does transit or transshipment of goods passing through customs in Thailand in a manner that attempts to avoid restrictions or prohibitions of such goods, is liable to imprisonment of up to 10 years, or a fine of up to 500,0000 baht, or both.

Items involved in the offences must be forfeited to the authorities, he said.

Source: Bangkok Post

FTI helps with waste projects

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is preparing to help reduce plastic waste under a new public-private collaboration that sees 68 municipalities countrywide serve as a model for sustainable plastic management.

Knowledge of garbage management in Rayong, including sorting used plastic for recycling, under the "Rayong Less-Waste" project will be shared with officials and communities in these municipalities, said the federation.

"The cooperation aims to support the government's plastic waste management roadmap, which set a target to recycle 100% of plastic waste," said Rayong governor Channa Iamsaeng.

"It is expected to increase the amount of recycled plastic by more than 1,000 tonnes a year."

The FTI, Rayong province, the Public-Private Partnership for Sustainable Plastic and Waste Management (PPP Plastic), and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste recently signed a memorandum of understanding to kick-start the cooperation.

They joined hands to promote better management of plastic waste, in line with the government's bio-, circular and green economic development, often known as BCG.

BCG encourages businesses to make wise use of resources in their operations with little or no impact on the environment.

"This cooperation will also increase the competitiveness of Thai industries, following the direction of economic and technological development," said Viraj Klewpatinond, chairman of the FTI's Plastic Industry Club.

Mr Channa said the 68 municipalities will learn from Rayong how to reduce waste, improve the quality of used plastic as well as help create new careers for people.

Waste management in Rayong is done on a community level and is based on the circular economy concept, he said.

The circular economy promotes an upcycling process to add value to unwanted materials, making them usable again.

The cooperation is expected to follow the success of the Rayong Less-Waste project, which was funded by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a global organisation formed by companies in the plastic industry to jointly solve plastic waste problems.

The project, which was carried out between 2019 and 2020, led to the amount of clean plastic that can be recycled exceeding 700 tonnes.

Wijarn Simachaya, chairman of PPP Plastic, said the group wants to help the government reduce plastic waste in the ocean by at least 50% by 2027 under the Roadmap of Plastic Waste Management, implemented between 2018 and 2030.

Source: Bangkok Post

Increasing exports to the European Union using trade preferences of the “Everything But Arms”

165 participants take part in virtual “EBA Engagement Workshop”

How to export to the EU market using trade preferences? This question stood at the centre of the 2-day workshop hosted by the GSP Hub project in cooperation with the EU Delegation to Lao PDR on 16 and 17 September 2021. 

The virtual “EBA Engagement Workshop” introduced participants to the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) which grants Least Developed Countries duty-free and quota-free access to the European market and thereby supports export growth and income generation in the beneficiary countries. 

The meeting was chaired by H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė, EU Ambassador to Lao PDR, and H.E. Mr Khampheng Xaysompheng, Minister of Industry and Commerce. “It is important to better understand the available opportunities and remaining challenges for target markets of the EBA”, H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė stated acknowledging the objectives of the workshop. H.E. Mr Khampheng Xaysompheng further highlighted that "the EBA has contributed significantly to the growth of the Lao economy, and has enabled us to access the EU market and pursue modern development."

Together with 15 speakers from the European Union and Lao PDR, participants discussed the relevance of the “Everything but Arms” for exports to the European Union but also as an incentive for European investments in the country. The discussion also covered additional trade opportunities with a special focus on sustainable agricultural products. Speakers emphasised that new trade strategies become particularly important in view of Lao PDR’s upcoming graduation from the LDC category, which will go along with a graduation from the EBA scheme after a three-year transition period. Speakers from the European Commission’s DG Trade and the ILO introduced participants to the GSP+, an arrangement that would allow Lao exporters to maintain preferential market access. The benefits of the GSP+ are, however, bound to the ratification and effective implementation of 27 international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection, and good governance. 

The two-day workshop was attended by in total 165 participants from different ministries and public authorities, the private sector, civil society, and academia. 

More information about the GSP Hub and the Everything But Arms/ Generalised Scheme of Preferences can be found here:

South Korean, Taiwanese semiconductor firms set to expand in ASEAN: DBS report

SOUTH Korean and Taiwanese chipmakers look set to ramp up their long-term footprint in Asean, even as American semiconductor companies remain the dominant player for now, says a new analysis of the region's investor attractiveness.

Still, most major South-east Asian economies fared poorly in a ranking by DBS Group Research, which assessed countries on factors such as labour cost and skill, electricity prices, infrastructure and level of digitalisation.

Singapore is the best-positioned market to clinch foreign direct investment (FDI) for semiconductor manufacturing, and Malaysia has the opportunity to upgrade from assembly and testing to fabrication, DBS economist Ma Tieying wrote on Wednesday.

This is despite Malaysia having to face short-term risks from pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions, which could cause delays in foreign investors' investment expansions.

But Ms Ma described the rest of the region as "underperformers" that rely on low labour costs to attract FDI in relatively manpower-intensive chip assembly and testing.

Further investments require significant progress in the governments' investments in education and infrastructure, and in economic and institutional reforms, she said.

The interest comes as the Asean-6 economies contributed more than one-fifth of the world's electronics exports in 2019 on the back of their rising participation in semiconductor production.

For instance, Thailand recently green-lit tax breaks for investments in wafer fabs, as well as assembly, testing and advanced printed circuit board projects, while Vietnam plans to boost its manufacturing of high-value-added electronics, Ms Ma noted.

Most foreign semiconductor investors in the region, such as Intel and Micron, are American; South Korean and Taiwanese semiconductor firms, such as TSMC, Samsung and SK Hynix, have historically preferred China for their operations.

But, besides an expected short-term ramp-up by United States companies aiming to meet surging chip demand in the region, Ms Ma projected that South Korean and Taiwanese players will raise their stakes in South-east Asia in the coming years.

"Their production facilities are mainly located in their home countries and China at present, which suggests the need for decentralisation in the context of the pandemic and China-US tensions," she said.

"It will not be surprising to see South Korean and Taiwanese semiconductor firms further expand footprints to the Asean region - in the relatively less advanced technology areas - in the years ahead."

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)

Date: 23 September 2021


Asean wraps up meeting with commitments to further digital economy, sustainability

The Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) will collaborate with its external partners to spur stronger recovery from the pandemic and lay a foundation for longer-term growth, Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a LinkedIn post on Wednesday.

"Asean and our dialogue partners exchanged views on ... the economic impact of Covid-19, and discussed cooperation areas to mitigate its impact and hasten recovery," he wrote.

His post came after the week-long Asean Economic Ministers' Consultations with the grouping's key partners, including China and the United States, wrapped up on Wednesday.

The ministers agreed to collaborate on the digital economy, including working on the exchange of electronic customs information.

They also committed to conducting a study on a region-wide digital economy pact by 2023 and to start negotiations on the Asean Digital Economy Framework Agreement by 2025.

A focus on digital transformation to enable the smooth flow of goods and services and data will help ensure the region continues to draw global trade and investments, and better position itself for growth, Mr Gan said at virtual meetings with his counterparts last week.

The grouping also agreed to work with Japan on innovation and sustainability in industries, urban areas and rural areas, and held inaugural consultations on economic cooperation with Britain.

"We also discussed enhancing our existing free-trade agreements with our dialogue partners such as Australia-New Zealand, China and Korea, and working towards the ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in early 2022," Mr Gan said.

How businesses in Southeast Asia can upskill for the future of work: MD of Adobe SEA

As Singapore and nearby countries start their journey towards living with Covid-19 as an endemic, Southeast Asia (SEA) businesses can expect to see more changes in the frequency of remote work, new online customers, and shifts in buying behaviors.

To stay agile, businesses will need to carefully consider the future of work, and source the talent, develop the skills, and organise the teams that can bring a digital-first customer experience (CX) strategy to life. With face-to-face interactions increasingly making way for digital engagements, online shopping has shot up, and businesses must pivot to keep up to customer expectations. 

When wesurveyed marketing and technology leaders for the 2021 Digital Trends Report, both CX leaders and mainstream companies ranked “lack of digital skills” as the third-highest issue holding back their marketing and CX organisation. Even before the pandemic, SEA businesses were concerned about the digital skills gap, with the explosion of digital channels and technologies. 

However, the future of work is not only about technology. In the new digital-first world, customers expect brands to deliver digital-led experiences specifically tailored to their needs and preferences. In addition to the right technologies, brands must invest in the right skills as well, to meet those fast-evolving expectations. 

Technical upskilling is only part of the solution. To build a customer experience advantage, business leaders and marketers need to be savvy about data analytics, change management, and storytelling skills too. Focusing on these three areas will help organisations deliver impactful experiences at every stage of the customer journey.

1. Turn data into actionable insights.

Plenty of people have technical skills but there aren’t enough who understand what the data is telling them in their particular business context. What’s lacking is a marriage of traditional analytical skills and technology.

There are many digital skills programs that train people in coding, business intelligence tools, and collaboration tools. However, many businesses don’t realise that it’s probably easier to take someone who already understands your business and teach them about data analytics, rather than hiring somebody who has the technical skills but will need to learn your business from scratch.

Digital upskilling isn’t just about training a new generation of workers. It’s about taking the workforce that businesses already have and equipping them with the latest digital tools to stay relevant.

For instance, the Adobe Programmatic League in Southeast Asia introduces existing members of the workforce to data and analytics, and show them ways to apply those digital skills to their functions. It’s taking decision-makers who aren’t experts in technology — and empowering them by bringing them into the world of data analytics. They then learn how they can transfer those capabilities to their organisation in this new world of CX.

We also  partner with government agencies to deliver digital skills induction and enablement programs to the Singapore population. It’s an on-ramp to the world of CX, providing an awareness of how Adobe enterprise customers have used digital solutions to access better insights about their customers.

2. Adopt change management as a mindset 

Change management — making change that is successful and sustainable — is a methodology and a learnable skill. Everyone involved in implementing a new technology should understand they are in a change program. Business leaders need to know how to make the change successful. If not approached that way, they won’t get the full value out of their technology investment and will subsequently fail in building a customer-first organisation.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), an agency that’s changing its industry through data and analytics. Even before the pandemic, STB realised the tourism industry needed more technology, data, and insights to be more efficient and profitable. The agency wanted to create a centralised data and insights platform to help the country’s travel and tourism ecosystem move into the digital age.

Adobe helped STB build the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN) and integrate it into the Singapore ecosystem. It’s a great example of an organisation taking the leadership on change and coordinating the industry through that change process, so they see the value and benefit from it.

Another example of an organisation leading with a change management mindset is M1. Despite being a pioneer in the telco industry, the organisation is embracing change by becoming Singapore’s first truly digital communication provider. M1 recently refreshed its brand identity, complemented with new made-to-measure offerings and an enhanced customer experience journey — including an overhauled digital experience roadmap, supported by Adobe.

3. Every customer journey is a storytelling opportunity

It’s critical that marketers have strong storytelling skills, both internally, to get all the teams aligned around the customer journey they’re trying to create, and externally, to deliver the right messages to customers at each stage of their journey with the brand.

Once business leaders have taken the time to understand the customer journey, they should organise their people to align and support in a consistent manner. This approach is a powerful way of showing empathy to customers, while lining up all the necessary data logistics to support the entire customer journey.

That level of empathy is only attainable when all the data is gathered, and segments are identified. That’s what allows you to tell the right story. It’s essential to link all these insights from an external point of view so that businesses can engage customers with the right level of empathy throughout the entire customer journey.

Showing that the customer journey is a story in itself, is powerful. If someone takes the time to document that story and articulate it and ensures that everyone in the organisation understands that customer story, everyone will then realise how they should be supporting that story — what their roles and responsibilities are, and how they can coordinate all of that to make it a smooth journey.

Establishing a successful digital future in Southeast Asia

The SEA region is a fast-growing digital market, and businesses need to upskill their workforce to digital work rapidly. The demographics show that the region has both a growing middle class and many young people needing jobs, so demand is aplenty.

The mechanics of future-proofing a brand are no less important than the conceptual framework it’s built on. Educating and training employees to understand and use technology effectively — and interacting with customers in new and improved ways — isn’t optional. 

Upskilling is key to establishing a successful digital future in SEA, and it will require a concerted effort from different stakeholders — from technology companies to higher education institutes, and governments.

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)
Date: 20 September 2021


Asean investors more focused on financial well-being following Covid-19 pandemic: Survey

SOUTH-EAST Asian investors have gained an increased focus on their financial well-being, more so than their global counterparts, and this behaviour is likely to be a lasting legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Schroders Global Investor Study 2021 on Tuesday.

The study found that a vast majority of investors have spent more time considering their financial well-being and reorganising their personal finances since the pandemic began, the asset manager said.

This is particularly so for investors in Thailand, with 91 per cent of them sharing this view strongly. This was followed by investors in Indonesia at 88 per cent, Malaysia at 85 per cent and Singapore at 81 per cent.

More than half the investors in this region are likely to save more once the Covid-19 situation normalises, compared with the global average of 46 per cent.

The study surveyed 24,000 individuals in 33 economies across Asia, Europe and the Americas from March to August this year.

Schroders noted that the survey reflected respondents' relatively more cautious outlook stemming from fluctuating lockdown cycles and slow vaccine rollouts during this period.

Respondents' more measured approach also applied to their retirement outlook, with 65 per cent of retirees in South-east Asia now more conservative with spending their retirement savings, compared with 58 per cent of retirees globally.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of those yet to retire now want to save more towards their retirement, higher than the global average of 67 per cent.

Over the course of 2020, 26 per cent of investors in South-east Asia said they had saved more than they planned to, while 56 per cent saved as much as they had planned.

Among those who were unable to save as much as planned, 57 per cent in South-east Asia cited reduced income as a key reason.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, investor confidence is at its highest level since Schroders began this study in 2016. They are expecting annual returns to average 11.3 per cent, up from last year's prediction of 10.9 per cent.

Overall, South-east Asian investors are among the most bullish, as they expect annual total returns of 12.8 per cent over the next five years. This is followed by investors in the Americas, broader Asia and Europe.

"Despite the huge challenges we have all encountered, it is encouraging to see that the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for promoting a stronger focus on generic financial planning and wellbeing," said Stuart Podmore, a behavioural investment insights specialist at Schroders, noting that the pandemic has heightened the overall sense of uncertainty.

"At the same time, we need to exert caution over the investment returns we expect over the coming five years, as the outlook shared by many investors - and in particular those who believe themselves to be experts - is exceptionally optimistic," he said.

He added that the future remains difficult to predict, as evidenced by the past 18 months, and a consistent and patient approach to investing, focused on long-term objectives and probable outcomes, is likely to stand investors in better stead.

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)

Date: 14 September 2021


FDI inflows across Asia remain resilient despite the prolonged pandemic: UOB FDI Advisory Head

Written by Sam Cheong, head of group FDI advisory and network partnerships at UOB. 

Global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2021, global FDI flows dropped one-third from US$1.5 trillion in 2019 to US$1 trillion in 2020. In fact, 2020's FDI flows were 20 per cent lower than those in 2009, as lockdowns and the prospect of a recession led to many companies around the world reassessing their investment plans.  

FDI inflows across Asia remain resilient

Despite the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia stood out as an attractive destination for FDI.

The UNCTAD report showed that FDI flows to Asia in 2020 rose by four per cent to US$535 billion – driven by investment flows into China, which reached US$149 billion, compared with US$141 billion in 2019.

FDI growth in Asia is expected to continue, with a five to 10 per cent year-on-year increase in 2021. According to the UNCTAD report, this momentum is driven by "growing markets, extensive regional and global linkages, and an investment climate that has remained generally open despite the pandemic".

Looking closer to home, Asean’s FDI inflows were muted in 2020. Each of the region’s top FDI recipients reported declines – Singapore by 21 per cent, Indonesia by 22 per cent and Vietnam by two per cent. These three countries accounted for more than 90 per cent of FDI inflows in 2020.

Thailand saw FDI inflows from foreign investors amounting to US$3 billion in 2019, turning into a negative inflow of US$6 billion in 2020 driven by divestments. In comparison, other ASEAN countries saw FDI inflows fall. In Malaysia, FDI fell 55 per cent to US$3 billion, while in Myanmar, FDI fell 34 per cent to US$1.8 billion.

However, the outlook for ASEAN remains bright. The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves all ASEAN member countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, is expected to be one of the major growth drivers as the trade bloc becomes more economically integrated.

Growth in energy infrastructure projects

In 2020, energy infrastructure projects globally fell 40 per cent to US$27 billion – the lowest point in eight years. For Asia the experience was the opposite. Asia was the only region to grow in the number and value of energy infrastructure projects.

For example, in Vietnam, the United States’ ExxonMobil has proposed a US$5 billion gas-fired power plant while Delta Offshore Energy (Singapore) will also be setting up a US$4 billion LNG power generation facility.

Defying the global slowdown in spending, FDI in renewable energy projects also increased, from US$30.7 billion in 2019 to US$33.4 billion in 2020. Asean's FDI in renewable energy sources is also set to grow further as the region commits to reviewing and transitioning its energy mix. B.Grimm, a Thai private power producer, is building a solar power plant in Vietnam that is set to be one of the largest in the region. Impact Electrons Siam is also developing a 600MW wind farm in Laos, which will be the biggest wind project in Asean.
Intra-regional investments by Southeast Asian companies 

Much of the Asean’s FDI investment stayed within the region, due to its attractive long-term growth potential. Intra-ASEAN FDI flows saw 5.4 per cent growth in 2020, from US$22.1 in 2019 to US$23.3 billion in 2020. 

Singapore and Thailand were the two largest investors in ASEAN in 2020. In fact, companies from Singapore formed the largest investor group in some countries – 25 per cent of FDI in Indonesia and 40 per cent of FDI in Vietnam was from Singapore. According to Enterprise Singapore, companies from the island-state have invested in Indonesia's consumer products and services, manufacturing, transportation, logistics and infrastructure sectors.

Thailand's FDI outflows more than doubled to US$17 billion in 2020. Almost 85 per cent of the outflows were funnelled into industries such as financial services, retail and wholesale, manufacturing, real estate, and construction activities within Asean.

Indonesia and the Philippines also invested into the region, with outward investment from the two countries rising to US$4.5 billion and US$3.5 billion respectively. For example, Japfa Comfeed (Indonesia) opened a feed mill in Vietnam while Ayala Corporation (Philippines), together with a Singaporean partner, is also constructing a wind farm in the country.
While the overall outlook for ASEAN depends on how countries are able to contain the pandemic and new virus strains, intra-regional investment will boost not only stronger economic cooperation but also long-term growth prospects for the economic bloc.


Source: The Business Times (Singapore)

Date: 15 September 2021


ASEAN launches Investment Report 2020-2021: Investing in Industry 4.0

Bandar Seri Begawan, 8 September 2021 – Today, the “ASEAN Investment Report 2020-2021: Investing in Industry 4.0” was launched during the Virtual Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers – 24th ASEAN Investment Area Council (AEM – 24th AIAC) Meeting.


Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into ASEAN fell by 25% to US$137 billion from an all-time high of US$ 182 billion in 2019 given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the decline, ASEAN remained an attractive investment destination, with its share of global FDI rising from 11.9% in 2019 to 13.7% in 2020.


In November 2020, ASEAN and its five Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, which is expected to further boost FDI and enhance economic integration in the economic bloc that constitutes about 15% of global FDI stock and more than 33% of global FDI flows in 2020.


This year’s report features FDI’s role in the region’s Industry 4.0 transformation and how Member States are adopting Industry 4.0 technologies to step up industrialisation and economic development. It also provides policy options to attract FDI in supporting the digital transformation of ASEAN, including in setting the right strategic direction and addressing the bottlenecks that impede the transformation.


The ASEAN Investment Report is prepared under a technical cooperation agreement between the ASEAN Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), with inputs from members of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Investment (CCI) and supported by the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II (AADCP II).


The report can be downloaded at:

Source: ASEAN

A Bright Future: Shaping The Culture of Entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia

Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing markets, the past decade saw the rise of more than a dozen unicorns in Southeast Asia, leading the charge in the expansion of the digital economy across the region. The surge in startup success stories from the likes of Grab, Sea, and GoTo shows the promise of the region’s internet economy, and more tech startups are only expected to emerge in the coming years. With some 400 million internet users and home to many young, mobile-first consumers, Southeast Asia has the opportunity to outpace the rest of the world in areas like e-commerce, smartphone-based businesses, and fintech.

Today, Southeast Asia’s micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs and SMEs) account for over 99 percent of businesses in the region. Backed by a cultural legacy of entrepreneurship, a young, urbanized population, and a digital economy now valued at US$300 billion — the opportunities to grow and scale are not lost on investors. According to Jungle Ventures, valuation figures across Southeast Asia’s tech ecosystem are forecast to hit a whopping US$1 trillion by 2025. With strong interest from investors looking to increase their exposure to the growth profile of this region, it’s clear that the region’s startup ecosystem has come a long way, in a short period of time.

A culture ingrained

Entrepreneurship lies at the heart of the region’s socio-economic landscape. In fact, with over 70 million MSMEs and SMEs in the region today, the appetite for owning and running businesses appears to be somewhat ingrained in the continent’s cultural fabric; and thanks to improved education, technological advancement and increased government investment, the region is now witnessing the rise of a new generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, across different cultures, backgrounds, and expertise.

From family-run stores to startups, SMEs are a vital source of income and employment in Southeast Asia, and have a widespread presence outside major cities, creating opportunities for work and development in small towns, suburbs, and rural areas. The overall economic growth of the region, combined with burgeoning youth populations and increasingly urban middle-class consumers all come together to create an environment ripe with opportunity for the region’s emerging entrepreneurs. Compared to larger, more established markets like China or India, Southeast Asia is still an early-stage market for venture capital investments — but if the recent fundraising successes of unicorns such as Grab, Carousell, and Bukalapak is any indication, there’s no doubt that startups in Southeast Asia are on the rise.

When one size doesn’t fit all

A market ripe for disruption, Southeast Asia is home to a wide demographic, cultural and linguistic diversity, with many of the countries in the region at various stages in their economic development. According to Monk’s Hill Ventures, roughly half of Southeast Asia’s US$3 trillion GDP is driven by the service sector, yet inefficiencies exist in all of its industry verticals. This gap is where entrepreneurs and SMEs in the region are reimagining business models using tech to create value. Singapore is the economic leader in the region, with the nation’s well-established global connections, advanced IT infrastructure, and sound regulatory foundation making it an ideal place for businesses and startups to flourish. While emerging markets like Indonesia and Vietnam — the latter boasts one of the best tech talent pools across the region — are fertile ground for new businesses to develop innovative, out-of-the-box solutions to existing problems plaguing the market. While the region is already highly interconnected in terms of commerce, the impact of its cultural diversity means that taking a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to be very effective.

Instead, there is a need for entrepreneurs to identify and address their markets’ pain points on an individual level. For this reason, rather than borrowing from old approaches from the West, founders in Southeast Asia have to reinvent the wheel and recognize the cultural and operational differences unique to each market in the region. This could be the level of digital literacy and existing infrastructure or simply consumer habits, for example in Indonesia cash is very much still king while in Singapore digital and card payments are the norm. By addressing expectations and needs on a country, rather than regional level, businesses will be in a better position to capture the market and deliver exceptional services to their target audiences. This could, for instance, look like giving local teams the autonomy to adjust products, processes, and prices in line with local expectations. That said, while each country in the region is very different, there is much evidence on the ground of economic collaboration, and business conversations in one country often cross borders when it comes to expansion plans, partnerships, capital sources, and access to talent.

Leapfrogging digital transformation

Within the region’s emerging markets, the absence of legacy infrastructures has made it so that many of these entrepreneurs are not burdened by the red tape of bureaucracy and established processes. Many giants in the e-commerce space, such as Lazada, Shopee and Zalora come to mind — by developing their own infrastructures such as logistic fleets and digital banks these players streamline processes and ultimately better serve the needs of their customers. Compounded with mass urbanization across the region, technology has made it much easier for new players to enter the startup space — whether they are MSMEs, or SMEs pivoting to digital. With some of the highest rates of mobile and internet penetration in the world, the region makes for an intensely technologically savvy and literate populace, open to innovation and disruption.

Just like the rest of the world, Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for digital adoption within the region, as consumers had no option but to go online for shopping, banking, and education, among others. Undoubtedly, they are expected to maintain much of their reliance on digital services, as the region continues to leapfrog to new levels of digital adoption, especially in areas like commerce and finance. With the ongoing proliferation of digital services, it is crucial for businesses to keep up and adapt to these changes or risk getting left behind.

Innovation is an integral part of Southeast Asia’s digital identity, and a practice that will continue to keep the region vibrant and competitive. Therefore, it is imperative for entrepreneurs and talents to embrace innovation in order to stay relevant internationally, particularly when it comes to digital transformation. As long as businesses continue to stay up-to-date and open to new business opportunities, and pursue new breakthroughs in technology, Southeast Asia will be able to remain appealing and maintain its edge on the global stage.

Source: Nasdq 

Economic, societal potential of green economy a key growth driver for Asean: CEO of StanChart Asia

ASEAN cannot rest on its laurels and rely on the same growth drivers to guide its future trajectory, particularly with weaker economic recovery expected on the back of increasing Covid-19 cases and renewed lockdowns.

That being said, increased intra-regional cooperation and connectivity is expected to boost regional growth.

"Asean is a bedrock of opportunities, with significant potential for growth - particularly in areas of supply chain diversifications, innovation & technology, and strategic partnerships & digitalisation," said Benjamin Hung, CEO, Asia, Standard Chartered.

According to the survey commissioned by Standard Chartered, 99 per cent of respondents expect growth in production and 96 per cent anticipate growth in revenue.

They identified the large and growing Asean consumer market (69 per cent), access to a global market enabled by a network of Free Trade Agreements (59 per cent) and availability of abundant and skilled workforce (49 per cent) as among the most important drivers for expansion across the region.

But Mr Hung emphasised that corporations must approach business expansions in a "conscientious manner". "In the world of the new business, sustainability is non-negotiable. The sooner businesses recognise that their success is intrinsically tied to the long-term prosperity of our communities, the more they can stand to benefit."

Indeed, one in two executives surveyed said driving sustainability and ESG (environment, social and governance) initiatives is an important area for their companies to focus on, as they look to mitigate risks and challenges.

The survey, which targeted senior executives at 83 companies, also showed entering new partnerships/ joint ventures to increase market presence (53 per cent) and executing digital transformation programmes (52 per cent) as important areas to drive resilient and rebalanced growth in Asean.

The problem is that the heterogeneous nature of Asean markets means that adoption of ESG principles across the region has been disparate.

Despite the region's slow start, local governments and corporates are gradually recognising the economic and societal potentials of the green economy, as noted by Borderless Business: Intra-ASEAN corridor, a series of reports commissioned by Standard Chartered.

ESG and sustainability are big themes for sectors in transition, noted Mr Hung. "In Asean, clients from the commodities sector are particularly receptive to ESG considerations and we support their efforts anywhere from renewable energy asset investments to transforming their supply chains to procure from certified sustainable sources," he said.

"Similarly for the shipping industry, we see clients active in exploring alternative energy set-ups and including ESG targets into their borrowing agreements."

Growth areas

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this renewed focus on sustainability is set to create significant opportunities in areas such as renewable energy, and automotive, particularly, electric cars, and infrastructure.

Energy in particular is at the forefront for the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and has been identified as an integral part of creating an integrated, well-connected and resilient Asean.

The region's electricity consumption was 994 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2020 and is projected to reach 1,287 TWh by 2025. To meet these energy needs in a sustainable manner, the Asean Plan for Energy Cooperation 2016-2026 (APAEC) has set a target to increase Asean's renewable energy component to 23 per cent of Asean's energy mix by 2025.

This is expected to result in a wide range of opportunities for regional cooperation through APAEC Programme Areas. Within renewables, solar energy is expected to be a significant growth segment, growing at a projected CAGR of 15.9 per cent.

Thailand is the regional leader for energy generation in the two fastest growing segments - solar and wind - with 10.53 TWh generated in 2020, which is expected to grow to 16.88 TWh by 2025. Vietnam is also expected to see maximum growth in these segments, growing from 2.83 TWh in 2020 to a projected 10.35 TWh in 2025, with a CAGR of 29.6 per cent.

Another key growth area highlighted by the report is the automotive sector. The region's well-established automotive hubs - Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia - puts it in good stead to create an integrated production cluster.

Boosted by strengthened trade linkages across the region through initiatives such as the AEC and the Asean Free Trade Area, automotive manufacturers can capitalise on the added connectivity Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) brings to explore export opportunities with Asean's major trading partners under the agreement, it noted.

It is also worth noting that regional governments are prioritising sustainable transport with a plethora of incentives being offered for the manufacturing and adoption of electric vehicles.

As countries in Asean target the building of smart cities, they are looking to develop capabilities in autonomous driving technology. Singapore is the regional leader in this aspect and has already begun tests for driverless vehicles; Malaysia and Vietnam have also made headway in this area.

The construction and real estate industry meanwhile is expected to restart its growth trajectory once economic activities resume.

As projects in Asean grow larger in size and increasingly complex, companies will need to look at digital solutions such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Internet of Things (IoT) to manage this complexity, noted the report.

The region as a whole has made some headway. Singapore adopted BIM in 2010 while Vietnam approved a 2017-2021 roadmap for implementation of BIM for construction and operation management in 2016.

Other industries on the report's growth watchlist include food and beverage products, which is expected to be buoyed by increasing urbanisation and a growing middle class with higher consumption power, e-commerce and digital platform services; and healthcare services.

Profitability and purpose

"It is important for all economies to have a resilient and cohesive roadmap towards a sustainable future. Through the Asean Comprehensive Framework, an enhanced focus by the local governments on green economies will provide businesses the confidence to invest more into the sustainability agenda and reap their potential benefits," said Mr Hung.

Pressure to get on with the agenda is also coming from the ground.

A separate report by Standard Chartered found that 67 per cent of MNCs state that supply chain emissions account for an average of 73 per cent of their total emissions. In their transition toward net-zero, many see tackling supply chain emissions as the first step. Significantly, they expect to exclude 35 per cent of their current suppliers as they move away from carbon.

Consumers are also becoming more socially conscious about their consumption habits and purchasing choices. According to the World Economic Forum report, Future of Consumption in Fast Growth Consumer Markets: Asean, 80 per cent of respondents claimed to value sustainability and actively made greener lifestyle choices.

As sustainability becomes a non-negotiable, companies need to identify where they are on their net-zero transition journey and re-evaluate their supply chain strategy in view of global and regional carbon reduction commitments, said the report.

It is also worth noting that prioritising sustainability is one of the keys to cement customer loyalty, grow customer base and ultimately increase profitability.

"Beyond profitability and ESG reporting, the aftermath of the pandemic presents an opportunity for companies to redefine their purpose in alignment with ESG principles, and to think of how they can drive sustainability and positive impact whilst still creating value for their stakeholders," it noted.

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)

Date: 13 September 2021

Reference: Economic, societal potential of green economy a key growth driver for Asean, Global Enterprise - THE BUSINESS TIMES 

Contract signing aims to increase rice production

Hiew HY Construction Sdn Bhd and Jurusy Perunding Sdn Bhd have been appointed as the project contractor and project lead consultant for the Phase 2 infrastructure work on the 500-hectare commercial paddy plantation area in Kandol, Belait District.

Held on August 25 at the Public Works Department (JKR), the project is an effort by the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT), to increase rice production to improve the country’s food security.

The signatories were JKR Acting Director General Ir Haji Mohd Salleh bin Haji Abdul Karim and Acting Director of Drainage and Sewerage Haji Mazlan bin Haji Abdul Salim, Hiew HY Construction Sdn Bhd Director Chong Chen Kong and Jurusy Perunding Sdn Bhd Director Ir Haji Samat bin Haji Abas.

The Phase 2 infrastructure work is a continuation of the 30-hectare Phase 1 project completed by the end of last year.

Planting for the Kandol Phase 1 was fully carried out by PaddyCo Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd. To date, PaddyCo Sdn Bhd has been planting in the Kandol Agricultural Development Area for four seasons starting October 2019 and has produced around 155 metric tonnes of paddy.

The Phase 2 infrastructure work worth more than BND36 million involve a paddy plantation area of 145 hectares as well as the construction of a water reservoir of 58 hectares

Read the full story here.