THE UPCOMING meeting of Asean finance ministers will focus on giving local currencies a bigger role and further liberalising financial services, Lavaron Sangsnit, director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office, said Wednesday.
Senior Asean officials met on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the role of local currencies in the Chiang Mai Initiative, which is a mechanism for emergency loans in a crisis, as they prepared the agenda for the finance ministers’ meeting in Chiang Rai, Lavaron said.
Currently, Asean, China, Japan and South Korea have contributed funds in US dollars to the Chiang Mai Initiative, while Asean officials and their counterparts from East Asia are looking at allowing members to contribute in local currencies, he said.
This issue will be discussed during the Asean finance ministers’ meeting today and tomorrow, Lavaron added.
The ministers will also sign an agreement to liberalise financial services, while Thailand will liberalise the asset-management business.
This will allow Asean investors to hold majority stakes in asset-management firms, he said, adding that since Thailand’s asset-management business is already open, there is no need to amend any laws. Other countries will also propose to open their financial services once they are ready.
The minister will also discuss the issue of making electronic payments across the border, as many countries have been developing the infrastructure needed for a cashless society.
For instance, Thailand has developed the infrastructure to accommodate payments using QR codes, internet and mobile. Cooperation in this sector will make things more convenient for consumers and make financial transactions in Asean countries much easier.
The region will also implement the Asean Single Window for sharing information and facilitating trade and investment, Lavaron said, adding that this is already in place in nine countries with the exception of Laos.
Funding for ‘green’ businesses
The ministers will also work with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to promote the green bond market, which will support investors and businesses that want to raise funds for environmentally friendly projects in the region.
ADB has also urged Asean to deepen its customs cooperation in order to promote more trade and investment.
Representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) met with Asean senior officials on Tuesday and suggested that the “Digital Revolution” will propel Asian economies, which have been driven by innovations over the past 20 years.
IMF has forecast that the global economy will expand 3.5 per cent this year, a deceleration from a growth rate of 3.7 per cent last year. Risk factors are trade tensions between the US and China and a slowdown of global economy. But a delay in interest hike by the US Federal Reserve can be favourable, IMF said.