PM: Travel bubbles crucial to reboot Asean economy


PUTRAJAYA: Asean governments must quickly implement measures to create “travel bubbles” between “green” Asean member states, said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the move was crucial to shore up investments and create job opportunities for people in the region.

The “green bubble” or “green lane” concept involves easing travel restrictions between two or more countries where local Covid-19 infections and cases are low.

“Possibly, in the near future, we can also open up our borders for intra-Asean tourism to flourish and deliver the much-needed financial boost into our national economies,” Muhyiddin said at the 36th Asean Summit held virtually and hosted by Vietnam.

Muhyiddin, who joined the virtual summit from here, said Malaysia also supported and shared the view of Brunei Ruler Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo that Asean officials should begin work on the establishment of an Asean travel bubble.

“As a first step, we can explore the possibility of sectoral exemptions for travel restrictions such as medical tourism or high-value economic visits,” he added.

Muhyiddin stressed that the public health crisis has had profound impact on the economy and rebooting the regional economy must be Asean’s utmost priority to mitigate disruptions to trade and strengthen the resilience of regional supply chains.

At the same time, Asean must ensure that a Covid-19 vaccine, when available, must be affordable, accessible and equitably shared between all, said the Prime Minister.

Muhyiddin said as of yesterday, more than 138,000 cases of Covid-19 had been reported in Asean, with over 4,000 deaths.

He said with what Malaysia proposed in April, Asean must formulate a Regional Economic Recovery Plan as countries in the region are fighting for economic survival.

He added that if Asean did not protect its regional economies, the wider disparity in growth among Asean countries might harm the regional grouping’s objective of greater economic integration.

“We must act swiftly and decisively in coordinating a regional level response in revitalising our economies.

“A well-coordinated response will ensure we emerge (from) this crisis stronger together, much like how we have weathered previous crises,” Muhyiddin said.

The Prime Minister said that together with Asean colleagues, Malaysia would also work towards the conclusion and signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year.

He added that Malaysia stood ready to engage India on the latter’s continued participation in RCEP, which Malaysia believed would contribute to regional prosperity. — Bernama

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