The Formation of the ASEAN Network

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—formed on 8th August 1967 under the auspices of the ASEAN Declaration—is a regional intergovernmental organization with 10 Southeast Asian nations as members. The Association includes Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos PDR, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, and Thailand. The association promotes intergovernmental cooperation and enables economic, military, educational, political, security, and sociocultural integration of its members and other Asian countries.

The association later transcended to the ASEAN Plus Three with China, South Korea, & Japan. Then, to further strengthen cooperation and social development at the Asia-Pacific level, the ASEAN Plus Six was formed to also include Australia, New Zealand, and India. Among the various areas of cooperation, those pertaining to financial sector development, FinTech, and financial inclusion are: enhanced consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies, and development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN.

The ASEAN Framework on Equitable Economic Development also has the endorsement of financial literacy as its main objective, as is also acknowledged and authorised by global institutions such as G20, Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion’s (GPFI) Digital Financial Inclusion, and OECD’s Financial Consumer Protection, and International Network on Financial Education initiatives.

ASEAN & INDIA: Initiatives for Cooperation in Financial Inclusion

On 1st June 2018, the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) on FinTech, under the then consideration of the second review of their Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), when the Prime Minister of India was on a 3-day official visit to Singapore.

The Prime Ministers of India and Singapore recognised the crucial importance of Financial Technology (FinTech) and innovation as the stimulant of the bilateral economic partnership—ASEAN. The MoU will facilitate progressing together in the domains of APl (Application Programming Interface) development, Regulatory Sandbox, secured payment processes, and digital flow of money.

Under the auspices of the JWG, the environment will become enabling for startups and entrepreneurs and will also widen the scope of FinTech solutions for the financial sector service providers and business. The agreement facilitates advancing the regulatory bonding between the governments of India and Singapore for sharing experiences on policies and regulations concerning the FinTech space by exchanging information on best practices.

According to the MoU, the partnership is also aimed at assimilating RuPay-Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS—of Singapore), UPI-FAST payment linking, and internationalisation of the Aadhaar and e-KYC ecosystem in the ASEAN region. It will also facilitate cooperation on regulations, financial markets, and insurance sector.

The Prime Ministers also hailed the declaration of the partnership involving NETS and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), commencing with the introduction of the Indian RuPay card in Singapore. Also discussed was the agreement between NETS and NPCI to introduce Bharat Interface for Money’s (BHIM) recognition of SGQR for payment in Singapore. Active discussion on actions to support cross-border payments was also considered, along with the international launch of India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) supported cross-border remittance app in Singapore, specifically to make it swift for Indian workers in Singapore to do remittances.

The ASEAN India Grand Challenge (organised on Pravasi Bhartiya Divas between 6-7 January, 2018, at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore), designed with the endeavour to discover global entrepreneurs having commercially feasible solutions and intention to leverage on their innovative business solutions (at product, service or processes levels) for solving the issues faced by the (6) priority sectors of India.

The ambitious global entrepreneurs were challenged to do so by gaining market access in 5 states of India. The themes that were prioritised for the challenge were: Internet of Things for Smart Cities (Govt. of Odisha), Financial Technology & Financial Inclusion (FinTech—Govt. of Andhra Pradesh), Renewable Energy (Govt. of Uttarakhand), Agriculture & Rural Development (Govt. of Andhra Pradesh), Clean India (Govt. of Rajasthan), and Digital Health (Govt. of Karnataka).