A close encounter with PM Mahathir

Photo Caption: ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines chairman Joey Concepcion with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

It is not every day that you get to listen to wisdom and insights from an ASEAN leader like Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. At his age of 93, he is still as sharp as he was when he was first sworn in as prime minister in 1981.

We are so honored to have been invited by ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Munir Abdul Majid to be part of the engagement with PM Mahathir which lasted for more than three hours.

The discussion revolved around trade and commerce across all ASEAN states and other related countries. It began with a discussion on the trade war between USA and China and the tariffs implemented, which then leads to protectionism. This topic urged me to ask how can we make the right approach to China and harness good relationship for trade. I mean accidents and issues can happen which can easily start a war. This should be a concern of all ASEAN countries as we are extremely close to China.

Whatever it is that we are doing to help our micro and small entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial climate that we are building will be disrupted. Even the technologies for the digital economy will also be on hold.  That is why it should be taken seriously and we probably should have a dialogue with the Chinese leadership. PM Mahathir said that war is not an option and we need to build our relationship with China through trade and investments. We can improve this relationship through communication and strengthen the connection across ASEAN countries.

Lastly, all the proposals and agreements will not become a reality if there is no investment in education and training. This is where the mentorship for MSMEs come into play. We need to equip our citizens with the right mindset and technical know-how so they will be ready to take on the next challenge of scaling up. With the right money and market infrastructure, but without the knowledge and skills, citizens will find it hard to grow in their respective spheres.

It has been evident that we are entering Industry 4.0 wherein technologies and digital solutions, infrastructure, and systems are being developed to provide effective and efficient processes in all industries. We all agreed that the digital economy would drive productivity and growth and further harness a greater connectivity and economic integration in ASEAN. Just like what we are pushing for here in the Philippines, wherein our goal is to digitalize all our sari-sari stores through different technologies such as online and cashless payment schemes. We are also linking our MSMEs to bigger markets through digital commerce platforms.

We also agreed that the “national interests of individual ASEAN member states should always prevail in a way that the regional grouping was structured, but it was cleared that individual national interests in Southeast Asia should be pooled to achieve meaningful market size for economies to scale and ensure an oasis of rules-based economic order.”

Additionally, it was agreed that ASEAN countries must commit to free trade and open economies. This would enable each country to grow from their current status and foster more trade relationships with other countries.

It was also raised that commitments made with ASEAN countries are not always fulfilled due to barriers to trade, investments, and skilled labor movement. And since our region is considered as an economic powerhouse, we should maximize our markets in order to reach the projection that ASEAN will be fourth largest economy in the world by 2050.

ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines chairman Joey Concepcion with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Policies should also support these developments. We are lucky here in the Philippines that we have a lot of partners and advocates in the government and private sector who continue to create regulations and policies that would enable every Filipino to achieve prosperity for all.

In closing, I must say that Prime Minister Mahathir is a leader to look up to. He is still very strong, has a great memory and directly answers the questions that were asked. He is the last remaining leader of their era in ASEAN. And we hope that he will still continue to become the great leader that he is today. Everyone in the ASEAN BAC thanks him for the special opportunity to hear his inspiring words of leadership.

When we asked him what is the secret to a good and healthy long life, he shared that his mom always said “when the food starts to get delicious, start to slow down and stop.”

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ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines, together with Go Negosyo, proudly present the 2nd ASEAN Agriculture Summit 2018 on Oct. 1, at the SMX Convention Center Manila. From the success of last year’s ASEAN Agriculture Summit, we are once again highlighting the importance and the great potential of the agriculture sector through our international and local speakers.

To know more about the summit, visit www.aseanagrisummit.com.