Having signed the Declaration on the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, the ten ASEAN countries are heading toward the realization of the establishment of the full-fledged community by the end of 2015, which will result in an increase in investment in ASEAN by countries outside the ASEAN region and hence a close scrutiny of the strengths and weaknesses of each member country. Let’s examine the strengths of each AEC member country.
As a world-class production base, Thailand has nearly all communications systems to link up with other countries; comprehensive public utility systems; solid and reliable commercial banking system; and ample labor supply. People are required to dress properly when visiting a religious place in Thailand. The monarchy is held in high esteem by Thais. They greet each other with the ‘wai’ gesture. The national flag is held in high regard and should not be used in any act of contempt. Public displays of sexual affection in public are not yet accepted in Thai culture.
The world’s fourth-most-populous country, Indonesia is the largest market in Southeast Asia with huge domestic labor supply, diverse natural resources, the largest economy in the ASEAN region and a rather solid banking system.
Indonesian Muslims deem the use of the left hand as impolite. Therefore, one should not use it to receive something from or hand something over to someone. Touching someone’s head is a disrespectful act. Possessions of drugs, weapons and books with obscene, pornographic pictures are heavily penalized. One should be careful about buying or taking plants or animals out of the country as there is a heavy penalty for the trading and exporting of over 200 types of plants and animals.
Vietnam’s population, the 14th largest in the world, is of high caliber with the thirst to learn new things. With its coast stretching as long as 3,260 km, the country has a large supply of sea food, crude oil and natural gas while political stability prevails. Wages are the second lowest in ASEAN after Cambodia.
In Vietnam, photographing of government office buildings is prohibited. Persons found guilty of drug offenses and frauds committed against government offices are faced with capital punishment.
Given an abundance of high quality resources, Myanmar has an advantage in the area of production factor. Its geographical location also allows for convenience when it comes to transport link with foreign countries. Domestic wages are low and thus conducive to investments in labor-intensive industries.
In Myanmar, a rather stringent code of conduct applies in religious places. Thus, foreigners are required to take off their shoes when entering the temple or somebody’s home and are advised to refrain from exposing their soles in public as this is considered extremely vulgar by the people of Myanmar.
Given its population which is the 12th largest in the world, the Philippines represents a high potential market, quantitatively speaking. With a large segment of the labor force that is knowledgeable about IT, the country has been able to successfully upgrade and export their IT products within a short period of time.
In the Philippines, people normally use their lips rather than the index finger to point at things. To call your attention, they often menacingly holler at you even though they already know your name.
Cambodia is known for its diverse and rich natural resources, particularly water, forest and minerals. More importantly, it has the lowest wage in ASEAN (USD 1.6/day).
When visiting a religious place in Cambodia, one should refrain from wearing short-sleeved blouses or shirts or clothes that allow an exposure of the skin. The head must not be touched as it is deemed the most important part of the body. One should not too intently look people in the eye as this is considered an insult.
Likewise, Laos is known for its diverse and rich natural resources. Wages are rather on the low side (USD 2.06/day on average). Investments are mostly in basic infrastructure such as hydropower and mining.
Females are required to wear traditional Laotian skirts when contacting official offices in Laos. Besides, the law stipulates that only the national currency, Kip, is used as medium of payment. Sexual relationship with a Laotian other than one’s spouse is illegal. The offender will be detained until the basic fine of USD 500 is paid and will also be deported.
In terms of the average annual per capita income, Malaysia ranks third in ASEAN while its basic infrastructure is the most integrated as well as has the most potentiality. The majority of its labor force is skilled. It aims to become a developed country by 2020. More importantly, its policy on production development seriously involves the use of advanced technology.
As regards the traditional concept of eating and receiving and handing over things, Malaysians resemble Indonesians in that they use only one hand, i.e. the right hand, when eating as well as receiving things from and handing over things to others. Alcoholic drinks are prohibited in Malaysia.
In terms of the average annual per capita income, Singapore ranks first in ASEAN and 15th in the world. The government has a clear-cut policy to promote and support product research and development as well as laws on intellectual property protection. There have been serious government’s thrusts for the country to become a hub in such aspects as finance, banking, commerce, space, fashion, accounting, aviation and transport, among others.
In Singapore, strict laws are seriously enforced, particularly in the areas of public cleanliness and drugs. Drug dealers, pushers and traffickers are faced with capital punishment.
A highly prosperous country from oil export, Brunei ranks second in ASEAN and 26th in the world based on the average annual per capita income. The population has high purchasing power while the country enjoys an abundance of natural resources and solid political stability.
The majority of the population are Muslims, which explains why alcoholic drinks are strictly not sold in public. Likewise, public discussion and conversation on the topics of sex, religion and politics are to be avoided as they are considered inappropriate.
In summary, each individual country has varied strengths. Therefore, prior to investing in any of these countries, one should conduct a comprehensive and thorough study in various aspects. For example, in the aspect of the cost of basic infrastructure, it was found that electricity is rather expensive in Cambodia while public utility costs more for non-residents than residents in some countries. In the aspect of wage cost, Cambodia and Myanmar seen most interesting for foreign investors. Still, a negative factor lies in implicit cost stemming from the lack of proper public utility system. Thus, working in the AEC member countries requires a good preparation in the areas of language and culture as these are sensitive issues that could cause ill will or resentment for the lack of knowledge and care. On the contrary, a sound preparation will lead to harmonious and effective work with the locals and successful achievement of the objectives as targeted.
Compiled by BLOG.SCGLogistics
Reference SCG Internal Magazine