HRH Samdech Norodom Sirivudh
Founder and Chairman, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace
Supreme Privy Councilor to His Majesty the King of Cambodia
Member of the Constitutional Council of Cambodia
At the Fokuoka Forum
Fukuoka, February 1, 2012
Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN
It is my great honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to give my closing remarks at such a historical, memorable, and dynamic forum.
Allow me to express my wholehearted gratitude to the co-organizers, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Fukuoka governor and people for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements for the forum.
I must say that this is one of the most fruitful forums in the region when it comes to regional cooperation and integration. The focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is very relevant in sustainable development, narrowing the development gap, and the creation of regional production and consumption network.
Today’s forum contributes to strengthening human connectivity or human production network in our region. Such human network is crucial to build an East Asian Community based on personal relationship, trust, and common values.
Our region is unique in terms of history and value system. I strongly believe that we have a strong base of diverse history and culture in promoting regional peace and development. However, to put our cultural sources into full swing, we need one condition, which is “close consultation, open communication, and transparency”.
When we look at regional economic integration, it seems to me that we overlook the issue of good governance. Without a good governance system in place, regional integration is just on the surface. Moreover, we need to emphasize more on the internal sources of growth. We need to reorient our ways of thinking to focus more on local knowledge and expertise in promoting and sustaining growth. SMEs have brought us tremendous economic progress. It is the core of sustaining employment and income generation for the local community. It is the driving force of regional integration. It is a key actor in localizing the economic integration process.
We have discussed enthusiastically the challenges and prospects of regional economic integration and the development of SMEs in our region. We have found out that SMEs have yet to fully integrate into the process of regional integration. Access to finance and technology, management skills, information, and less friendly and supportive government policy towards SMEs remain key constraints for some countries.
We need to further encourage and promote transfer and exchange of knowledge, technology, and best practices in managing SMEs. The public sector needs to work harder to facilitate and support the activities of SMEs including an access to finance and information. Micro-financing mechanism for SMEs especially in CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) is essential. ASEAN SMEs Resource Center should be created at both regional and national levels. ASEAN SMEs Foundation should be established to support the center. Japan should take a lead in this respect since Japan is the leading country in SMEs development.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We have completed part of our common journey towards the realization of an East Asian Community. But we still have a long way to go. We either walk or run together hand in hand to reach our destination. If our generation cannot reach the destination, lets work together to inspire and transfer the torch to our young East Asian citizens. It is a “Mission Possible”!