Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Megawati calls for greater role for private sector in NAM

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur

President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on the private sector in all member countries of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) on Sunday to help strengthen once again the movement's stature in international affairs, both politically and economically.

Speaking at the opening of the NAM Business Forum here, Megawati said that most NAM member countries are weak, both politically and economically, and it would be impossible for the government to deal with the problems alone.

"The reality that the NAM members live in, in short, is political disarray and economically they are left far behind. There is not much that we can do to remedy the situation," the President said.

"We see a general picture emerging with Non-Aligned members becoming mere performers rather that decision makers in our own destiny," she added.

Therefore, Megawati suggested that NAM adopt a new paradigm that "could further encourage the private sector to play a crucial role particularly in launching various economic initiatives and activities, and in bridging more concrete cooperation among members of the nonaligned countries."

When the private sector takes up its role in the economy, then, governments can focus on domestic politics, international relations, the legal system, general economic policy, fiscal matters, security and public order.

If the synergy between the government and private sector works well, then NAM member countries could stand proud in the globalized world.

The NAM business forum was initiated by Indonesia, South Africa, Thailand and India to enhance economic cooperation among NAM member countries in the southern hemisphere, which are mostly beset by backwardness.

The business forum aims to open more doors of opportunity in NAM member countries for the NAM business community, and allow them to interact and engage in business deals so that they could help improve the economic condition of NAM countries.

Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and South African President Thabo Mbeki also attended the opening of the business forum with host Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's Prime Minister.

When opening the forum, Mahathir underlined that businesses in countries in the southern hemisphere remain attractive due to their large natural resources and abundant labor force.

However, the prime minister cited the need for these countries to address immediate problems such as corruption, internal conflicts and an uncertain political environment to improve the business climate.

"Therefore the business community of the south must learn to work together, to study, discuss and devise ways to overcome our problems. But, above all, we must stay together and act together; let the rest be handled by the politicians," he remarked.

The Prime Minister further proposed the establishment of a NAM business forum secretariat to ensure the continuation of the economic cooperation between NAM countries in the private sector.