Breaking barriers to competitiveness

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FINEX Folio — By J. Albert Gamboa-125


The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) will hold its 49th Annual Conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati City on Oct. 13. Organized by the FINEX Week Committee, its theme is “Breaking Barriers to Competitiveness in the ASEAN Financial Sector” with the following rationale:

In between the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015 as well as the Philippines’ Chairmanship of the ASEAN this year, the ASEAN has consistently been at the forefront of the Filipino business community’s concerns in the past years. Much has already been discussed about the entailed risks and opportunities — discussions that have prompted companies to work toward future-proofing their own organizations.

However, the approach to the deadline of the ASEAN Financial Integration in 2020 brings to light the fact that there is still much more to be said and done, especially within the financial sector: from raising our securities regulation to match global standards, to the necessary preparations for taking part in an ASEAN Capital Market, to even understanding the behavior and preferences of the ASEAN consumer of today.

It is this conversation that the 2017 FINEX Annual Conference aims to spark with the wider goal of spurring action to improve the Philippine financial sector’s position in the regional and global stage. This year’s conference will tackle the hard-hitting questions on the Philippine public and private sectors’ readiness for the financial integration, all in the context of a world that continues to blindside us with one critical juncture after another.

Keynoting the FINEX conference is Tun Dato’ Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, and currently the President Emeritus of Perdana Leadership Foundation.


At the age of 92, Mr. Mahathir has made a stunning comeback in Malaysian politics by forming a new party called Bersatu, meaning “unite” in Bahasa. This development opens up the possibility of his becoming Prime Minister again should the opposition win the parliamentary election due by mid-2018.

Incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak of the ruling United Malay National Organization (UMNO) won the last general elections in 2013 despite losing the popular vote. Since then, he has been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) strategic fund that he founded upon gaining power in 2009. Subsequently, he had a falling out with his political mentor, Mr. Mahathir.

After breaking away from the UMNO coalition, which has a 60-year record of unbroken rule since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, Mr. Mahathir formed the Bersatu party together with Mr. Najib’s former deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, who was fired in 2016 for questioning his boss about the 1MDB scandal.

Bersatu, also known as the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, now has branches in 165 out of the 222 parliamentary constituencies in the federal country. According to Mr. Muhyiddin, this is a feat few opposition parties have managed, having achieved it in less than a year from Bersatu’s founding in late 2016.

Last March, Malaysia’s opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan accepted Bersatu as its fourth member to strengthen the opposition’s chances of winning more seats in the 2018 elections. Anwar Ibrahim, Mr. Mahathir’s erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister, heads the opposition coalition, and their new alliance represents a real threat to UMNO.

FINEX has teamed up with BDB Law to co-present a series of breakfast forums dubbed as “Top Agenda.” These informal sessions provide opportunities for FINEX members to get together with distinguished government officials in a closed-door setting to discuss relevant business and regulatory matters as well as to identify areas where FINEX can collaborate with and assist the government.

This month’s resource persons are Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier about the BSP’s financial inclusion advocacy on Sept. 18, and Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio about the West Philippine Sea dispute on Sept. 21. Both forums will be staged at the Tower Club, Philam Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

J. Albert Gamboa is Chief Financial Officer of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and serves as Co-Chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.