Jakarta (ANTARA) - APEC member economies must jointly promote and encourage the region’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to make the switch to the emerging digital economy, said Malaysia’s Minister for Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, Wan Junaidi.

“Going digital is not an option, it has to be done. It is a necessity to survive,” he said in his opening remarks at the APEC 26th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting, held online on Friday.

At the meeting, ministers in charge of small and medium enterprise policy for APEC regions exchanged views on addressing the severe economic impact of the pandemic on MSMEs. They also discussed steps to build a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable environment for the sector.

MSMEs play a significant role in the region’s economic growth, contributing around 40 to 60 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of most APEC economies.

In response to the pandemic, APEC members have been formulating support measures for the sector, which range from tax breaks, wage subsidies, interest rate reductions, soft loans, and refinancing, so that business owners and managers can sustain their operations and continue to contribute to the global economy.

“In the new normal, businesses must pivot their strategies and business models to adapt to the digital economy and incorporate innovation and technology in order to remain resilient,” Junaidi stated.

“Besides all the fiscal stimulus, it is equally imperative to support MSMEs to go digital while helping them to adjust and overcome the challenges,” he added.

He urged APEC members to be alert to the multi-faceted challenges and concerns of going digital, including data privacy, cybersecurity, digital fraud, and the digital divide. He also highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation and collaboration within APEC member economies "during and beyond this pandemic".

APEC has been consistent in acknowledging the significant contribution of MSMEs to the region’s economy and employment.

Speaking at the meeting, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, Rebecca Sta Maria, highlighted that policy work undertaken by other APEC groups can contribute to helping MSMEs in the region.

"Support for MSMEs in APEC is cross-cutting and requires close partnership within our fora and the private sector," she pointed out.

"We need to advance progress in structural reforms, trade facilitation, and digital initiatives, such as the single window implementation, to make it easier, faster, and cheaper to do business in the region and to ensure seamless flow of goods and services within economies and across the borders," she continued.

During the meeting, ministers endorsed a joint statement focusing on APEC member economies’ commitment to support MSMEs in restarting and reviving their businesses through digitalization, innovation, and technology.

The ministers also endorsed a new five-year vision to reinforce business ethics and integrity in health-related sectors — Vision 2025 — which was launched earlier this month at the 2020 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum, under the world's largest ethics pacts to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical devices and biopharmaceutical sectors. (INE)

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Reporter: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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