FINANCE SECRETARY Carlos G. Dominguez III made several recommendations aimed to help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies make their financial positions more resilient against future shocks.

Mr. Dominguez put forward the proposals during the 24th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting (AFMM) last week, which included increased support for infrastructure investments in the region because of their high multiplier effects; more accessible disaster risk financing for future shocks; and maintaining open trade within the region during global emergencies.

“The free flow of goods within the region requires harmonizing our tariff and customs clearance policies. We also need to further harness technology to expand the access of our enterprises to regional and global supply chains,” Mr. Dominguez was quoted as saying in a statement on Thursday.

He also urged members to intensify cooperation within the region in plugging the potential tax leakages in cross-border financial transactions.

There should also be more financial instruments that countries could tap to raise funds for their health infrastructure and other additional funding needs during public emergencies, the Finance chief said.

These proposals are expected to boost the financial resilience of the region, expand growth in the digital space and be more responsive to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Mr. Dominguez said.

He also asked ASEAN members to better coordinate on the research and development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our collective efforts on these proposed actions will enhance each country’s fiscal position to withstand future crises and bolster our economic resilience,” the Finance chief said.

“The wild card in all our planning and strategizing is the virus itself. We have no knockout punch until a safe and effective vaccine is ready for mass distribution. I, therefore, encourage the ASEAN member states to significantly enhance cooperation in the area of COVID-19 vaccine research, development, production, and distribution,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He also called on ASEAN member economies to “recalibrate and strengthen financial cooperation” within the region to boost their resilience to shocks.

“We must brace ourselves for future outbreaks. Our policies must be targeted towards enhancing each country’s fiscal position to withstand future shocks and bolster our economic resilience. With greater solidarity and stronger collaboration, I am confident that we can quickly return to the path of inclusive growth and shared prosperity. Together, we will beat this pandemic,” he said separately during the 6th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting (AFMGM) last week. — BML