NOW is the best time to pursue radical changes. Why? Because we have a strongman (iron-fisted visionary) at the helm. So if you want something done with expediency, now’s the time to take action – while we have a Duterte around.
It was during the golden age of the Pharaohs (powerful visionary leaders of Northern Africa) that Egypt built lofty monuments to the zenith of their civilization. Do the citizens of the regional bloc known as ASEAN believe that it’s their time? Then we should jettison petty nationalistic differences that serve as fetters to advancement and gear ourselves towards forming a regional bloc equipped for propelling the age of copper-tone Malays to greater heights.
There is great strength in unity. When united, we can become an impregnable fortress. When nations come together as a singular entity, they can become greater than the sum of its parts. The United States is a hegemonic force to reckon with because they are practically 50 nations banding together as one (note: just one state, like California, is economically and geographically superior to most countries in Africa or South America).
The way forward in this age of globalization is increased integration among member countries of a particular region. To be recognized as a major power in the world, we need to first become an economic behemoth. Respect is earned, not demanded. What currencies do you see in foreign exchange counters of major airports across the world? You’ll find those of the financially respected: USD, JPY and Euro.
Poverty is a mentality, a state of mind. Why can’t we imagine the Philippine peso (PHP) listed among those major currencies? It’s because we have been so accustomed to seeing ourselves as the little guy among giants. The same would be the attitude of Vietnam or Thailand. To grow out of this mindset, we need a new strategy: one which requires banding together for a shared destiny. Why can’t we imagine having an ASEAN common currency being recognized as a major unit of exchange by people across the world?
Whereas there will always be the naysayers, there are also those who dare to dream, and do so with some modest audacity. That’s why this article proposes to push for a common currency for ASEAN. Let’s call it the ZAX (Zenith of ASEAN integration and eXchange) with an initial exchange rate on the order of 100 Zax = 1 USD. ASEAN members are already visa-free in crossing each other’s borders; why not take it to the next level by making business/trade even easier?
Having a common currency can usher in new perks and opportunities:
- Vending machines and payment systems (kiosks, buses, trains) that work seamlessly all over ASEAN accepting the Zax.
- Tourists getting better attracted to visit ASEAN owing to the convenience of travel brought about by the Zax common currency.
- Greater resilience to economic storms by having a strong regional Zax currency backed by a colossal 600M-strong ASEAN market.
- Increased trade among ASEAN nations without the hassles of forex. 100 Zax worth of Philippine mangoes for 100 Zax of Malaysian palm oil.
- The “pride” and convenience of having one’s own ASEAN Zax currency available at foreign exchange counters all over the world.
There are ways to counter the resistance to adopting a common currency. For a start, it could just be used among ASEAN’s beach boys (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam) since we pretty much belong to the same league. Note: The problem usually cited for the Euro was that weaker economies were pooled together with the strong.
If you visit a country like Poland, you will see them using their local currency (Zloty) as well as the Euro. This can also be done so as not to make the shift too drastic.
Then we can also first introduce the new currency to mainly online and electronic transactions, which would mitigate the impact of having to supply hard currency (minting coins) to an enormous population across a vast region at its launch.
Finally, what’s in a name? Why coin a new currency name called the Zax, when there are already names such as the crony, the krup, and the anwar that have been brought to the fore?
It’s simple: when choosing a currency name, it’s best to not need to differentiate between singular and plural – like how 1 Yen and 100 Yen are both simply “Yen” (not 1 Yen and 100 Yens). So, can anything be more convenient than the “Zax”?
PS: China does not want a strong ASEAN. So don’t ask China for advice on this subject. The better question would be: where should we have the ASEAN central bank?
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