Asean must cooperate to stabilise financial markets

Region’s parliamentarians issue call at Bali gathering.

ASEAN parliamentarians, concerned about the currency turmoil in the region, yesterday called on their governments to step up cooperation to confront future upheavals.

“Cooperative measures among Asean economies to stabilise financial markets need to be further strengthened,” they said in a communique at the end of the 18th Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organisation (Aipo) meeting in Bali.

“Asean must work closely to protect Asean’s interest against manipulation in the financial markets.”

The joint statement noted that a meeting would be held in the Philippines soon to discuss ways of strengthening Asean cooperation in this matter.

Singapore’s Speaker of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon, who led the Republic’s 14-member delegation, said the currency crisis was a major highlight of the week-long meeting.

It took place against the backdrop of problems which hit nearly all Asean members.

Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia have been reeling under the assault of speculators, who forced central banks to abandon efforts to prop up their currencies.

In the last two months, Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta have let their currencies float.

The baht, peso and rupiah fell promptly to record lows with repercussions for the Singapore dollar and Malaysian ringgit, as well as stock markets region-wide.

Mr Tan said the Singapore team emphasised the importance of economic fundamentals in countering currency speculation.

“When we are talking about free-market forces, the economic fundamentals of each country have to be examined,” he told The Sunday Times.

“Fluctuations in the market are caused by speculators but also as a result of the inflow and outflow of funds by genuine investors,” he added.

Besides the currency turmoil, parliamentarians also touched on other economic issues in their communique.

In particular, they proposed the need to develop stronger links among Asean’s small and medium-sized enterprises to move forward in the direction of a free trade area.

In political and security matters, they supported Asean efforts to restore Cambodia’s political stability but rejected foreign intervention, including an economic embargo.

On the issue of the disputed Spratly islands, they called on claimant countries to declare the South China Sea islets a demilitarised zone and find ways of cooperating further on development, resource conservation and combatting piracy and illegal drug trafficking.

Mr Tan said the most tangible achievement of the Aipo meeting, other than brainstorming regional political and economic issues, was that it strengthened bonds between Asean legislators.

“This is important because it adds another layer to Asean’s cohesion and strength as a regional organisation,” he said.

COVERED ON THE AIPO AGENDA

Asean parliamentarians, at the 18th Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organisation (Aipo) meeting held in Bali, discussed the following issues:
* The region’s currency crisis
* Links among Asean’s small- and medium-sized businesses;
* The advent of the Asean Free Trade Area;
* Asean governments’ efforts to restore stability in Cambodia;
* Resolving the Spratlys dispute;
* Other possible areas for cooperation, for example, countering piracy and drug-trafficking, and in development.

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