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Cherie Hearts

Dr. Sam Yap,


Group Executive Chairman and co-founder of Cherie Hearts, Singapore, winner of ABW in Growth (SME) category

In their concluding statement at the 14th Summit in Thailand, Asean leaders said they would welcome expansionary macroeconomic policies, including fiscal stimulus, monetary easing, access to credit including trade financing, and measures to support private sector ... to stimulate domestic demand.

1.    From your experience and perspective, how significant is the government support for private sector?

In Singapore, government support for the private sector has been immense, a case in point being the S$20.5 billion budget unveiled this year, and in particular the Jobs Credit Scheme, which is definitely a strong boost for companies. From my experience as Executive Chairman of Cherie Hearts Group, I must say that our company has been on the receiving end of strong government support – for example, in terms of childcare subsidies and guest-of-honour appearances in grace of our expansion plans.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore is already in recession and economists believe Malaysia and Thailand are on the brink, while Indonesian growth has slowed to its weakest pace in more than two years.

2.    The stimulus spending plans announced by governments across Asean may stem the economic damage to a certain extent, but what should they do to revive industries with a focus on exports which are not likely to stage a major recovery until consumers in the West start spending again? Is boosting intra-Asean trade the best solution?

Trade, both intra-Asean and with the rest of the world, is of utmost importance to economies globally as it is a major driver of collective growth. With specific regard to boosting intra- Asean trade, my take is that it should definitely be a priority for us. Especially in the context of our close neighbourly ties, as well as in the light of the global economic crisis, which has taken an impact on Asean countries, it is essential that we hold hands through this challenge together. To me, this is not only about sustaining our economies, but also about bonding among neighbours. In fact, I am of the view that boosting intra- Asean economic cooperation is an area that has taken a backseat during the past years of strong global economic growth; and the present global climate highlights the need for us to focus on this issue again.

The 14th summit marked the implementation of a roadmap that aims turn what used to be a consensus-based group long derided as a talk-shop into a single community of 570 million people with a combined GDP of $2 trillion in six years.

3. Do you think this goal is achievable in six years? What do you think could be the hurdles?

I foresee the main hurdle as political will – the determination and ability of governments of member countries to see it through and sustain it. From a macro perspective, there remains cultural and ideological differences among the Asean member countries and it will be a challenge for us to assimilate these differences. From a micro perspective, the political instability faced by various Asean member countries, and the continuation of ideology from one government to its successor, will prove to be a major obstacle we have to grapple with. Overall, I remain hopeful that an integrated Asean is the way to go, and certainly achievable within the next decade. Nonetheless, the way we handle the challenges that will surface from time to time will be a key determining factor on whether we will eventually reach our goal.



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