WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL
The Manila Times
LEADERS of the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) are pushing for connectivity in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member countries driven by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are considered the foundation of all economies of Asean states. Arsjad Rasjid, chairman of ICCI, disclosed this on Monday, March 27, in a roundtable interview with The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City. According to Rasjid, they were planning to implement it by September after a meeting with Asean leaders, particularly the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. “Our aim is there will be Asean leaders’ meetings twice this year, first in May and second in September. Hopefully by September, we can see Indonesia and the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore [to interconnect]. At least five countries. We want to do business quickly,” he said. Rasjid pointed out that the ICCI is open not only to Asean but also to other countries outside of the regional bloc, saying they have discussed the idea with senior economic ministers during his rounds of visits to other countries. “We spoke to all of them. We are very open to creating connectivity with SMEs and even micro enterprises,” he said. Behind the plans, according to Rasjid, are digital transformation, help resilience, sustainable development, food security and trade and investment. He said the same plans were discussed with the Group of 20 or G20 where Indonesia is the only member coming from the Asean. The G20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation and sustainable development. MSMEs contribute 67 percent to the economy of Indonesia and 90 percent to jobs. On the other hand, 99.6 percent of companies in the Philippines are MSMEs, which contribute 30 percent to the country’s gross domestic product and 60 percent to job generation. Rasjid explained that from digital transformation, there are three legacies, which include weekly entrepreneurship and the Asean QR code. “Basically, in a way, the weekly entrepreneurship is how we want to connect the MSMEs in Asean,” he said. “Inclusivity means we can’t leave anybody behind in business. All has to be inclusive. Centrality is how we connect each other,” Rajid added. He cited as an example a pilot project they did on weekly entrepreneurship, which aims not only to connect the MSMEs to supplier companies, among others, but also the “big guys of these companies to be able to mentor the process or teach them the right way to do it.” The Asean QR code, he said, actually refers to the payment system. “Indonesia and Thailand are already connected now. So with the QR code, we can just pay. So why not do it all within Asean?” Rasjid added. The Asean QR code payment, he said, will greatly benefit the MSMEs by reducing processing payment by as much as 2 percent, “a big thing” for MSMEs in terms of savings.