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Topic 1: The Spratly Islands
Topic 2: Corruption*
"the aims and purposes of the Association are: (i) to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and (ii) to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter."
Corruption stands in stern opposition to these principles and must be fought. ASEAN will lose not only confidence with other nations, but may also bring about another Asian crisis like that of 1997.
Corruption isnt merely some minor problem afflicting small parts of the region; it has become institutionalized. Corruption holds roots as early as the colonial period. Corruption in Indonesia, for example, has become so institutionalized that its eradication might mean the critical dislocation of the whole shaky national structure (Public Administration Review, 1999). Such situations in Indonesia and fellow ASEAN members demand creative solutions.
Highlights of why corruption remains may serve as starting points for creating solutions. Low government salaries for both the bureaucracy and civil servants makes bribery an almost necessity for survival. Businessmen in Bangladesh have complained that their high costs are due to the payoffs they have to make to government officials for sanctions, bank loans, and permits (PAR, 1999). Such hazards for business have been cited for one of the main causes of the Asian Crisis of 1997.
Singapore has offered some good solutions. They concluded that political leaders should be paid well to ensure a clean and honest government. This means that salaries and wages need to move with the market (PAR, 1999) and prevent the brain drain of competent senior officials. Although doing well, Singapore is difficult to compare to the other poorer ASEAN members and support may need to extend to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Paying higher wages may not be feasible and officials may still succumb to temptations.
Transparency has been another solution open to debate. Since many government contracts have been given to a privileged few due to corruption, openness may prevent many nations from falling into corruption. An enforcement mechanism for such policies exists in some but not all ASEAN countries. Models from ARF members would greatly aid other nations as they begin what looks to be a long transition away from corruption.
Also look under:
Topic 3: Economic Development.
Regional Economic Development for ASEAN means Integration.
Beginning with the Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA) of 1977, ASEAN members devoted themselves to encourage economic development amongst themselves. Unfortunately, members have been more likely to affirm the vision rather than to create it. This calls for greater integration of the ASEAN economies to function more as one unit rather than separate economic entities.
The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) of 1992 launched a scheme to increase ASEANs competitiveness within the world. The AFTA would mean the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to an almost non-existent level by the year 2008. The Hanoi Plan of Action, adopted in 1998, serves as the first in a series of plans leading up to the ASEAN Vision 2020 that called for ASEAN Partnership in Dynamic Development. An ASEAN Power Grid and the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline are also being developed along with a possible trans-ASEAN transportation network. These shared plans have helped integrate, but much is yet to be done.
An exclusion list for products has been made to trade liberalization plans. This means that all ASEAN countries have the option to continue placing barriers on various products. This selective liberalization really hurts everyone. This selectivity, however, remains one of the few points of leverage for the poorer countries under the AFTA Treaty as well as being their only protection. Across the board reductions will need a good deal of negotiation and examination by delegations. Keep in mind that non-tariff barriers can be just as harmful as tariffs.
Dispute resolution always poses a problem for free trade areas. Since the AFTA lacks specificity, dispute resolution and rules interpretation will need to be done by a fair and well-represented institution. One example has already been seen between Singapore and Malaysia over trade in petrochemical products (Asian Survey, 1995). Such conflicts will become more common as liberalization continues.
Integration also calls each country to integrate specific economic polices such as currency, taxes, expenditure, and relative prices. A managed-floating exchange rate system may increase interdependence (Contemporary Economic Policy, 1995). Also, Singapore barely relies on tariffs for tax revenue while the poorer nations derive almost a quarter of their income from tariffs. An open seas policy wouldnt hurt but remains unlikely. What it comes down to is that there is no mechanism to make national legislation consistent. ARF nations may aid the ASEAN members with their models of free trade (NAFTA, EU, LAFTA, etc.).
Increased relations with the US have aided ASEAN members in the past and continue. ASEAN is Americas fourth largest trading partner and trade is still increasing. Such a consideration must be weighed in before protective economic policies ensue.
*This will be the resolutionless topic for the ASEAN committee. Do not submit resolutions on this topic.
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