The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious damage to economies around the world and even though the worst of the outbreaks appear to be over, countries are currently having to battle inflation as well as food, energy, and security issues. It is estimated that more than four billion people have been affected by major disruptions in the supply chain but now, according to Mr. Supant Mongkolsuthree, Chairman of APEC Business Advisory Council for 2022 (ABAC 2022), business owners in Thailand and neighboring Asia-Pacific countries can see some light on the horizon.

“The pandemic has made huge impacts on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. It has also affected the lives and livelihood of women entrepreneurs, indigenous communities, youth and other groups in the region, among others. Being at the receiving end of such great challenges, we have a responsibility to call for decisive action to deepen the economic integration of our region and to better equip our businesses, including the smallest, to achieve dynamic and sustainable growth,” Mr. Supant told Thai PBS World.

ABAC consists of 63 members appointed by the leaders of each economic zone, three members per economic zone from the 21 economies making up Asia-Pacific. The Business Advisory Council gathers every year at four council meetings and one APEC CEO Summit to discuss business perspectives and economic issues. The aim is to come up with a set of recommendations to be presented to the APEC economic leaders at their annual dialogue.

In 2022, the first and second APEC Business Advisory Council meetings took place in Singapore from February 15-18, and in Vancouver, Canada from April 25-28, respectively. The third meeting will be held in July 2022 in Vietnam while the fourth, slated for November 13-16, will precede the APEC CEO Summit on November 16-18. Both will be held in Thailand, which holds the Chairmanship for 2022.

“Committed to representing the voice and sentiments of businesses and peoples of Asia-Pacific, ABAC members work closely with economic leaders in order to help reshape the region’s trade, economy, and most of all, the lives and livelihood of our people,” added the chairman.

Honour and responsibility

Thailand previously hosted the APEC CEO Summit in 2003. This year, the summit will be held onsite for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme is “Embrace Engage Enable” and Thailand will be welcoming APEC leaders from the world’s most dynamic economies, speakers from the world’s top companies, and over 1,500 CEOs from across the Asia-Pacific region. The program will feature two days of discussions, presentations, and dialogue on a wide range of issues that will promote balanced, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth.

Vanida, the owner and operator of a small bakery in Bangkok, admitted to being familiar with APEC, but was doubtful about its relevance to her business. “At first I thought that these events were for the benefit of big businesses only. But just the same, I feel a sense of national pride that a big event like this is hosted by Thailand,” she said.

More than being a source of national pride, Thailand’s chairmanship of ABAC 2022 and the hosting of APEC CEO Summit this year entail huge responsibilities, especially for ABAC members. “We act on behalf of the businesses and communities,” said Mr. Montri Mahapreukpong, an ABAC member. “It is a huge responsibility, as we have to agree on and develop recommendations on five priorities, namely digitalization, inclusion, sustainability, trade and investment, and pandemic response,” he said.

The council is also very keen on seeing greater participation of MSME businesses, to which small bakery operators like Vanida belong, in international markets.

Greatly affected

A recent survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that although large companies have been affected by the pandemic crisis, the effects were greater on MSMEs. It stated that more than half of MSMEs have had substantial revenue loss and fear being out of business within three months unless public assistance is available and extended over the duration of the crisis.

According to Larry Rivera, owner of a small landscaping contracting company, “There is evidence that MSMEs are increasingly digitizing operations to adapt to changing circumstances, but temporary closures, employment, and wage reductions, and bankruptcies have occurred. The most widely used policy instruments directed at mitigating the effects of the crisis are income and profit tax deferrals, loan guarantees and direct lending, and wage subsidies.

“Digital transformation should also be promoted to help accelerate digital literacy and access to international markets, global value chains and supply chain finance – which are critical to our survival,” he said

Business of the people

Without doubt, there is a complex and challenging journey ahead. Yet, we must remain confident that the state of Asia-Pacific economies and our trading networks will continue to be robust on their way to full recovery.

“Committed and inclusive collaborations on strategic topics that truly matter are key. Today, the region’s public and private sectors are united in working together and that is one part of greater developments yet to come,” Mr. Supant concluded.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

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