APEC economies continue to make progress in implementing structural reforms meant to expand opportunities and promote inclusion across the Asia-Pacific.
This is according to the Mid-Term Review of the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (RAASR) conducted by the APEC Policy Support Unit to assess the structural reforms being conducted in the APEC region, and to look for gaps which could be targets for future work.
According to the APEC Economic Committee, structural reform is about using policy to remove barriers that stand in the way of people and economic opportunity in the context of a market economy.
“Structural reform means promoting competition, making it easier to set up and operate a business while ensuring that people have access to necessary services,” said Robert Logie, Chair of APEC’s Economic Committee.
“These reforms make markets work better, but they can also attain other broad goals,” he added.
He noted that APEC’s renewed structural reform agenda was initiated against a backdrop of uneven economic growth and widening income disparity.
“The average per capita income in the region has gone up and absolute poverty levels have fallen,” said Logie. “Nevertheless, widening inequality can impede long-term growth and sustainable economic development and undermine efforts to promote international trade. Structural reform has the potential to give all segments of society a stake in economic growth and hence improve inclusion.”
APEC’s structural reform agenda is organized into three pillars: 1) develop more open, transparent and competitive markets; 2) deepen the participation of all segments of society; and 3) establish sustainable social policies.
According to Andre Wirjo, who co-authored the review, the agenda allows each economy to choose its own structural reform priorities.
“All 21 economies participated,” Wirjo said. “Collectively they gave updates on 80 priorities and 172 related actions on various commitments ranging from improving infrastructure, to reducing administrative bottlenecks in the market and ensuring the relevance of education to market needs.”
Wirjo said while these achievements are welcome, there is still room for further action. The report includes findings on where more work is needed to strengthen markets, such as in improving business regulations and facilitating business conduct, as well as to promote inclusion, such as in improving access to basic services and infrastructure.
“The assessment indicates that we should do more to deepen the participation of wider segments of society in the market” Wirjo said. “More could be done to remove barriers to the economic participation of women, youth, and small businesses.”
The Mid-Term Review of the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform was presented to high-level officials from the Asia-Pacific during meetings in Port Moresby.