ASEAN MSMEs in a COVID-19 World: Lessons from ERIA MSMEs Talks 1-5
Micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) represent between 97% and 99% of firms and between 60% and 80% of total employment across Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries (Lee, Narjoko, and Oum, 2019). These numbers show the importance of MSMEs as economic actors across the 10 ASEAN economies. As in most countries around the world, ASEAN MSMEs have been heavily affected by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic (ASEAN, 2020a). Unlike larger companies, MSMEs typically face greater financial constraints, such as more limited access to capital, more limited capacity for future investments, and more limited resources to train and reskill employees. As a result, these are challenging times for many MSMEs in ASEAN and worldwide (OECD, 2020; APEC 2020). Moreover, MSMEs in sectors most impacted by the pandemic, such as travel and hospitality, are struggling even more.
For this reason, most relief packages and recovery measures pay particular attention to MSMEs. Within ASEAN, various economic stimulus packages have been introduced since February 2020 and often include tax incentives/breaks, subsidies, exemptions from certain government fees, and charges (ASEAN, 2020b). While designing these stimulus packages as well as longer-term relief measures, policymakers should pay greater attention to how to rebuild ASEAN economies to make them more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive for the post-pandemic future (ERIA, 2020a).
This report summarises the key messages that emerged during the first five episodes of the ERIA MSME Talks, a series of webinars designed to discuss key issues, challenges, and opportunities for ASEAN MSMEs in the COVID-19 world, with a diverse group of stakeholders including entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics, and experts from the region. This report details some of the building blocks for the development of more sustainable and inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems during the post-pandemic economic recovery in ASEAN.