CHIANG RAI – Finance ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and central bank deputies of 13 East Asian countries on Wednesday discussed plans to increase the role of local currencies through currency swap transactions to avoid over-reliance on the U.S. dollar.
The plan was discussed during the ASEAN Plus Three Finance and Central Bank Deputies’ Meeting hosted by Thailand in the northern city of Chiang Rai on the eve of the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting to be held here Thursday and Friday.
Lavaron Sangsnit, director general of the Thai Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office, said participants agreed it is time the 13 countries to rely more on local currencies, starting with swaps that will involve exchange of interest and exchange of currencies to lessen reliance on the U.S. dollar, which is subject to fluctuation.
He said the 13 countries — the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members plus China, Japan and South Korea — have yet to finalize when the scheme will be implemented, but it will be discussed in detail in the upcoming meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors.
The discussion relates to the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization scheme, which came into force in 2010 and is designed to address balance-of-payment and short-term liquidity difficulties in the region in times of crisis, while also supplementing already existing international arrangements.
The CMIM evolved from the Chiang Mai Initiative, the first regional currency swap arrangement launched by the ASEAN Plus Three countries in May 2000.
In their two days of talks, the ASEAN finance ministers and central bank governors will also highlight collaboration on ASEAN payment connectivity, cybersecurity resilience and information-sharing platforms amid the emergence of electronic finance.
Meanwhile the ASEAN finance ministers, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and major financiers on Thursday launched a facility to spur more than $1 billion in green infrastructure investments across Southeast Asia.
The facility offers loans and technical assistance for sovereign projects in areas such as sustainable transport and clean energy, the ADB said during the meetings of ASEAN’s finance ministers and central bank governors.
“Through the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, ADB will support ASEAN governments in developing green and climate-friendly infrastructure projects,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said in a statement.
It will mobilize a total of $1 billion, including $75 million from the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund (AIF), $300 million from the ADB, $336 million from KfW, 150 million euros from the European Investment Bank, and 150 million euros from Agence Francaise de Developpement.
It is part of a new “Green and Inclusive Infrastructure Window” under the AlF, a regional financing initiative established by ASEAN governments and the ADB in 2011.
Since then, the AlF has committed $520 million for regional energy, transport, water and urban infrastructure projects.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.