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Ambassador Leslie Baja delivers his presentation of Philippines' growth story in Asia

Speakers and attendees to the ASEAN Business Forum

Swiss SMEs take interest in ASEAN as an investment destination

The Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) and Credit Suisse co-organized an ASEAN Business Forum in Berne on 02 July 2013.

The forum, which was attended by around fifty (50) business people representing various Swiss companies, mostly small and medium companies (SMEs), focused on the viability of the ASEAN region as an investment destination for Swiss companies, particularly SMEs.

The forum opened with an overview by Nora Wasserman, an economist from Credit Suisse on the potentials of the ASEAN region and the opportunities it affords Swiss businesses, particularly in light of the economic downturn experienced by European countries. She forecasted continued growth for the region in the coming years due to some factors, including its demographic trend, which is characterized by a growing young population that supports economic growth, which is the opposite of what China is facing as a result of its one-child policy; large reserve buffers and strengthened intra-regional trade.

It was then followed by testimonials of various Swiss SMEs and start-up companies with presence in the region, specifically in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.. APM Technica, a company located in a PEZA zone in Laguna, spoke about its 7 year presence in the country which is generally positive.

Some of the opportunities identified include the large scope for infrastructure projects; consumer market of more than 600M people, which translates to private consumption growth, partly driven by credit growth; large pool of English-speaking population especially in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines; and right work attitude of the people.

The challenges presented include the deficiency in physical infrastructure, bureaucratic red tape, legislative infrastructure not friendly to investors, high cost of energy and labour, building human resource capital, and image problem.

Some of the speakers also pointed to the risks that businesses cannot manage; finding the right local partners and the right people to hire, the latter being related to human resource capital; transparency in government regulations.

Ambassador Leslie Baja, the only Ambassador from the ASEAN region invited to speak at the forum, spoke about the Philippines as a new growth story in Asia, highlighting the economic progress in the country and the efforts done by the government to undertake infrastructure modernization, as well as the consistent positive ratings of various ratings agencies and financial institutions. He also touched on the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which offers more opportunities for foreign investors as the region becomes a single market of more than 600 million people and a single production base with free movement of skilled labour, goods and capital.

The forum ended with a question and answer portion, which gave the representatives from other Swiss SMEs, especially those who have yet to invest in the ASEAN region, to field questions about their respective concerns. Some of the questions fielded concern the challenge of upgrading human resource capital in the region through education and training; what difference will AEC 2015 make for Swiss companies and how it will impact on Swiss companies operating in the region and those planning to invest in ASEAN. END

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