His Excellency Tan Sri Datuk Sri Utama Pandikar Amin Mulia
The BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025 (BEV 2025) was formulated to ensure that member countries are attuned to regional and global development trends, opportunities and challenges that would influence the future of economic cooperation. BEV2025 builds on the successes and progress achieved by BIMP-EAGA thus far. It is grounded in the commitments made by member countries through their national and local development plan to promote sub regional cooperation. National consultations and sector planning workshops were conducted to ensure the greatest possible participation by BIMP-EAGA stakeholders (national and local governments, sector cluster and working groups, and the private sector) in the formulation of BEV 2025. In light of the fact that the BIMP-EAGA initiative is considered a building block of ASEAN economic integration, the BIMP-EAGA Senior Officials Meeting agreed to align the period of this strategic plan with that of ASEAN Vision 2025: Forging Ahead Together.
The establishment of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia Philippines (BIMP)- East ASEAN growth area (EAGA) in Davao the Philippines in 1994 in a remarkably rich and justifiably strategic move. It certainly heralds a new era not only for the four countries but for ASEAN as a whole. The main reason behind the scenario of this eminent group is obviously for the emergence of closer co-operation and co-ordination and a new sense of urgency and dedication to the true cause of ASEAN. Undoubtedly the formation is appropriate because of the vital importance of trade, networking and communication, and co-operation in this region. Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines created the East ASEAN Growth Area to shift economic activities from resource extraction to higher level of processing and value- added production, focusing on industries that adopt clean and green technologies.
The heart of the reason for crafting this growth area of course derives from not just a personnel and intellectual odyssey by any one intellectual, but to provide an opportunity to initiate debate and discussion and iron out issues plaguing the four nations and to value the importance of statecraft and diplomacy in achieving co-operation and networking in enhancing, particularly trade. The four countries involved, namely Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (in alphabetical order) are linked by shared history, common laws (where Brunei and Malaysia are concerned) and the existing parliamentary systems in all these four nations undoubtedly provide a solid foundation from which to develop new and continuing partnerships. A further advantage is that whereas Indonesia has a Dutch experience, Philippines has the American background. For the record, it remains a fact that in 1962, the Philippine and Malaya were two of the most stable and prosperous countries in the region.
Launched 27 years ago in 1994, the group’s initiative boosts further growth in not merely in trade and investments but extends to tourism through new a-intra-region shipping routes and air links as well. In additions, it empowers inter-connection projects and emphasizes on key areas of co- operation which includes agribusiness, the environment and socio-cultural education. Agribusiness is pertinent as Asians, which certainly includes the citizens of all these four countries are basically agriculture based and have hands-on experience as toilers of the soil before industrialization and digitalization and computer science-now referred to as the hype ‘artificial intelligent’ has veiled the need to return to ‘back to the basics’. The pandemic-a results of the dreaded Covid-19 has somehow set the clock aright and many in this region have taken to farming and to the land once again, not only for survival but as a business to revive their flagging other businesses. Hence, the need for BIMP-EAGA group to not merely give a helping hand, but to assist whole-heartedly.
Research would indicate that bilateral trade between these four countries are on average lower in cost compared to those between other countries. The BIMP-EAGA is not just a talk-shop but has a doer attitude. It provides an excellent opportunity to promote more trade and investment thus assisting and stabilising the economic development and social progress in this region. The exchange programmes between these countries will provide a better understanding of each respective nation’s local laws, culture, traditions and environment.
THE BIMP-EAGA Charter
The BIMP Charter itself brings together the values and aspirations which unite this group- democratic principles, adherence to the rule of law and the alleviation of poverty and job creation. In this context, it would be apt to remember that:
‘business is a major source of investment and job creation and constitutes a powerful force capable of generating economic growth, reducing poverty and increasing the demand for the rule of law, but history teaches us that markets post the greatest risks to society and businesses (which affect the economy) (emphasis added) itself when their scope and power far exceed the reach of the institutional undertakings that allow them to function smoothly and ensure their political sustainability.
THE BIMP-EAGA Charter is consonant with Article 55 (a) of the United Nations Charter which states that the UN will encourage “higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development”.
Article 55 (c) goes on to commit the UN to the promotion of “universal respect for the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”.
The preambles to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (1947) and the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO Agreement) (1994) both echo Article 55 (a) of the Charter, referring to “raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand”.
Programmes on Trade by Parliamentary Groups
There are many programmes one can avail oneself to, especially Members of Legislatures. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA),ASEAN, World Bank, World Trade Organisation and Trade Ministers Meeting have been working on trade programmes for years for the benefit of its Members. The CPA for instance , holds a position as the Steering Committee as the Parliamentary Conference on WTO and as such contributes to the annual conference on global trade for Parliamentarians. BIMP would certainly focus on this to deliver Regional Seminars on International Trade and Partnerships.
The Impact of BIMP-EAGA on Women in the Region
The impact this group has on women’s economic and social empowerment and well-being is certainly immense. Women, in particular in this region face more challenges than their counter-part in Europe and other regions. Access to education and training is not distribution alone but in the command over resources and access to credit, land and occupational distribution. This is where it is important for Parliamentarians to ensure that legislation is driven towards addressing these
BIMP can play a tremendous and very significant role in promoting trade not only in the region in Commonwealth trade as well, more so in the aftermath of Brexit. Trade between Commonwealth members stood at above $600 billion in 2016 and is heading to $ trillion by 2020. The total Commonwealth exports grew from $19 billion in 2000 to $268 billion in 2016. Undoubtedly the Covid-19 pandemic has lowered the figure, but we stand positive it would rise again if we are ready to take the year of the bull by its horns and ride the tiger. BIMP-EAGA undoubtedly has vision- Vision 2025.
What is Vision 2025 of the BIMP-EAGA
Since its creation in 1994, BIMP-EAGA has been a highly effective mechanism for member countries to accelerate social and economic development in remote and less developed areas. Now, as a new trends and challenges emerge both regionally and globally, the organization has drawn up a blueprint for keeping itself relevant, going forward It aspires to become resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and economically competitive.
BIMP-EAGA’s Vision 2025, prepared with support from the Asian Development Bank, provides a way forward for members to continue narrowing development gaps, for sustainably managing natural resources, and for promoting stronger connectivity.
The BIMP-EAGA Vision for 2025 is “Resilient, Inclusive, Sustainable and Economically competitive
(R.I.S.E) BIMP-EAGA to narrow development gap”.
BIMP EAGA aspires to achieve a level of resilience in its development that would cushion the sub-
region from the impact of external shocks and hasten recovery. It intends to foster inclusivity by narrowing development gaps within each country, and between the sb-region and ASEAN. All BIMP- EAGA initiatives will consider environmental impacts and seek the sustainable management of natural resources. Lastly, BIMP-EAGA development efforts will be directed at growing industries
where BIMP-EAGA already has, or could easily develop, a competitive advantage. BEV 2025 focuses on delivering three main outcomes:
- A competitive and green manufacturing sector aiming a transition from resources extraction into higher levels of processing and value-added production;
- Establish sustainable, competitive and climate-resilient agro-industry and fisheries to ensure food security, export development and livelihoods; and
- Have BIMP-EAGA as a sustainable, well-developed and connected multi-country tourism destination, to benefit less developed areas.
Given that connectivity is vital for the seamless movement of goods and people across BIMP-EAGA, and for its integration in ASEAN and the rest of the world, the West Borneo Economic Corridor, Greater Sulu-Sulawesi Economic Corridor and other economic corridor provide a spatial focus to the physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity being pursued. The BIMP-EAGA development approach is to mobilize the private sector as an engine of growth , with governments (particularly at subnational levels) providing a facilitative and conducive environment that promotes and supports private sector investment.
The BEV 2025 key enablers are active and supportive local governments, and an engaged and empowered private sector. The BIMP-EAGA development path to 2025 is guided by a long-term strategic thrusts of enhanching connectivity within and outside BIMP-EAGA. Establishing the sub- region as a food basket in ASEAN and the rest of Asia, promoting BIMP -EAGA as a premier tourism destination, ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources, and promoting people-to-people connectivity through socio-cultural understanding and increasing mobility. The highlights of the sector strategies outcomes and outputs are summarized below:
In terms of transportation, BIMP-EAGA’s vision is to have a sub-region inter-connected by seamless, safe multimodal transport. The output would be: increased movement of goods and people, with deliverables per subsector (i.e air, sea and land); intra-EAGA air routes and airports facilities; ferry services and seaport facilities; and road and other infrastructure facilities.
As for Trade and Investment Facilitation, the vision is to have a sustainable and competitive cross-border trade within the sub-region (intra-EAGA trade) and with the rest of the world (extra-EAGA) and a conducive and viable investment environment within the sub-region. The output would be: streamlined rules, regulations and procedures to facilitate cross-border trading; SMEs integrated in supply/value chains; and join trade and promotion initiatives.
As regards Power and Energy Infrastructure in the sub-region, the vision is to have a resilient and improved energy sector for sustainable development. The output of course would be: interconnection projects; renewable energy project; rural electrification; and energy efficiency and conservation programs.
To make Information and Communication Technology, in the sub-region as a single ICT-enabled community with high-quality infrastructure, improved accessibility, competent human resources, and technological innovation. The output would be: improved and updated ICT connectivity and infrastructure (hard and soft); competent ICT human resources; and technological innovations.
For Agribusiness, the aim is to have in the sub-region to have a sustainable, competitive and climate-resilient agro -industry and fisheries. The main output would be: the development of sub-regional supply/value chains for priority commodities with highest perceived potential for intra- EAGA and extra-EAGA trade and processing.
When it comes to Tourism in the region, the intention is to make BIMP-EAGA as an ecotourism destination of choice in Asia and the Pacific. The output would be: enhanced tourism access, connectivity and infrastructure; ecotourism sites developed and promoted; tourism circuits involving at least two countries; and communities to adopt sustainable livelihoods and ecotourism based on ASEAN standards.
Environment is included as well and the objective is mainstreamed sustainable management approaches in BIMP-EAGA ecosystems. The Outputs would be to have sustainable ecotourism in ecosystems; sustainable and climate-resilient farming and fishing practices; and clean and green production technology is promoted.
As for Socio-cultural and Education enhanced people-to-people connectivity and knowledge exchange and the development of highly competent human resources are the targets. Here the Outputs would be enriched appreciation of BIMP-EAGA shared culture and heritage; and strengthened partnerships among institutions providing technical vocational education and training, and institutions of higher education.
The BIMP-EAGA institutional structure has been adequate in facilitating consultations and dialogue between and among the member countries at both national and sub-regional levels. The present institutional structure is simple, sufficiently flexible and generally effective in supporting the project-based and activity-driven approach of BIMP-EAGA cooperation. BIMP-EAGA will continue to regularly review its institutional mechanisms and cooperation processes, led by the BIMP-EAGA Facilitation Center at the sub-regional level and the National Secretariats at in-country level, to ensure they remain responsive to the requirements of the sub-region.
While there will be no fundamental changes in the organization and cooperation arrangements in BIMP-EAGA, implementation arrangements will be greatly strengthened by a more disciplined process of project planning, implementation monitoring and evaluation, in order to ensure quality delivery and greater accountability. The project Appraisal committee will be activated to periodically assess compliance with the requirements of a sub-regional project, as defined in the BIMP-EAGA Project Manual. Project Implementation Teams will be established to oversee project implementation, report on progress, and monitor and track project level targets and indicators. Convergence initiatives, which are essentially multi sectoral approaches to project development, will be pursued to ensure linkages across sector strategies and to strengthen project implementation through joint identification, formulation, and implementation of multi sectoral interventions. Strong communications support to raise public awareness on BIMP-EAGA will be put in place, that would include multi-sectoral cooperation events, digital and internet campaigns, institutional support through the revival of the BIMP-EAGA Media and communicators Association, regular updating of the BIMP-EAGA database, and promotion of its use among economic researches and media groups. Knowledge partnerships will be developed to generate demand-driven knowledge products and services, such as training and research for BIMP-EAGA stakeholders.
Training events, workshops and other capacity-building activities will be continued in partnership with government, the private sector, academe and development partners. BIMP-EAGA will continue working with ASEAN and with other sub-regional initiatives (i.e. Heart of Borneo and Coral Triangle Initiative) to pursue cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Other external partners will be sought for their potential as financiers, providers of technical assistance , knowledge partners, and value-added contributors to the realization of the BIMP-EAGA vision.
Under BEV 2025, the results-based monitoring and evaluation system is designed to assess the overall development effectiveness of BIMP-EAGA at macro, sector and project levels. Broad development results towards achieving the overall BIMP-EAGA outcomes of competitive and green manufacturing; sustainable, competitive and climate-resilient agro-industry and fisheries; and the establishment of the subregion as a sustainable tourism destination will be measured based on macro-economic data. At the sector level, the achievement of sector outcomes and outputs based
on defined targets and indicators will be measured. These will be aggregated to assess sectors contributions to the overall BIMP-EAGA outcomes. Project level indicators will be monitored and aggregated to assess contributions to sector strategies, as part of the shift.
Priority infrastructure projects in BIMP-EAGA are concentrated in two economic corridors, which will link production with supply chains and provide opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The West Borneo Economic Corridor is BIMP-EAGA’s oil and gas corridor as it passes through areas of Brunei Darussalam, West Kalimantan in Indonesia , and Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia that are major exporters of crude petroleum and natural gas. It has a well-established transport infrastructure and linkages from Pontianak in West Kalimantan to Kuching in Malaysia and Brunei
Darussalam. There are existing trade and investment ties within the corridor through traditional border crossing points. This corridor covers four routes: Pontianak-Kuching, Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan, Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu, and Muara-Labuan.
The Greater Sulu-Sulawesi Corridor is a maritime corridor that covers North Sulawesi in Indonesia, Sabah in Malaysia, and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines. The corridor is mainly determined by the geography of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, a highly bio-diverse, globally significant biogeographic unit in the heart of the Coral Triangle-the center of the world’s highest concentration of marine biodiversity. There are strong historical trade links in this particular corridor, with trade concentrated between North Sulawesi and Mindanao, and between Sabah and Mindanao. The corridor is also the nerve center of barter trade in BIMP-EAGA , particularly in agriculture and aquaculture products. Transport connectivity consists of port to port trade flows and shipping services within the Sulu-Sulawesi seas. This corridor covers four routes: Palawan- Sabah, Zamboanga, Peninsula-Sabah (including Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines), Davao (Davao del Sur) and General Santos-North Sulawesi.
BIMP-EAGA is developing a third economic corridor, which will pass through the new capital city of Indonesia . The East Borneo Economic Corridor covers the other four provinces of the Indonesian portion of Borneo: Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, North Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. It will connect Sabah through a new road in Tanjung Selor, the capital of North Kalimantan.
It is for the BIMP-EAGA to grab this year of the bull by its horns and ride the tiger (the covid-19 pandemic). The international community is seeing greater economic security in these unsettled times (blame it on Covid-19). There is a clear advantage in this eminent group in studying trade agreements. These venues are excellent opportunities to promote more trade and investment. The Key to getting things off the ground quickly will be the enthusiasm of Ministers, Head of Missions and trade envoy. Nevertheless one has to caution against expectations. Besides local distribution rules often seem to serve as an obstacle to genuinely free trade. In this regards the four nations should co-operate and iron out pressing issues relating to cross-border trade. Laws and agreements
drafted must be magisterial, formidably detailed, comprehensive and viable, bearing in mind the foreign policy of respective state.
***Pandikar Amin bin Haji Mulia (Tan Sri Dato Seri Panglima Utama) is the former Speaker of the House of Representative of Parliament Malaysia who held the post for ten years, from 2008-2018. A Barrister at Law from Lincoln’s Inn, he had previously served as the Speaker of the Sabah State Assembly from 1986 to 1988. He is therefore very experienced in legislative matters and knows the Standing Orders like the back of his hand. Prior to that he held the post of Minister in the Prime Ministers Department (1999) and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for the State of Sabah (1996), Minister of Infrastructure Development of Sabah (1996), and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Sabah (1994), was appointed Senator (1988) Speaker of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly (1981) and Legal Adviser for the Sabah Forestry Department (1980). His Excellency Tan Sri Pandikar was appointed as the Ambassador to represent Malaysia in the BRUNEI DARUSSALAM-INDONESIA-MALAYSIA-PHILIPPINES (BIMP)-EAST ASEAN growth Area (EAGA) in January 2021. Tan Sri Pandikar became the Chairman of the re-branded party
United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) in 2020.
The Malaysian Chapter of BIMP-EAGA is based at: Facilitation Centre, 25th Floor, Block A, Sabah
State Administrative Centre, Jalan Sulaman, Teluk Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu Sabah.