By Kazuo Kobayashi

In our mission to maintain macroeconomic and financial stability in the region, the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) recognizes the importance of capacity development to strengthen surveillance capabilities among its members. Over the past seven years, AMRO has provided targeted technical assistance (TA), tailored to the needs and economic profile of the members.

A key component of AMRO’s TA is the Secondment Program. Through this program, officials from member authorities are given on-the-job training opportunities to enhance their knowledge and experience in macroeconomic surveillance and regional financial cooperation.

Started in 2013, the original Secondment Program has since received 30 officials from the central banks and the finance ministries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam (known as the CLMV countries).

In 2017, it was extended to officials from the rest of the member authorities under the Expanded Secondment Program, with self-financing by their parent organizations or a cost-sharing framework with AMRO’s TA Trust Funds. Since then, AMRO has hosted eight secondees from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Bank of Korea, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Ministry of Finance of China, and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

A unique and rewarding experience

During their stay with AMRO, the secondees work as a formal member of AMRO’s teams in one of these respective areas: country surveillance, providing support to the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) or strategy and coordination.

In doing so, the secondees also support AMRO’s surveillance with their knowledge and insights of their own countries. For instance, the secondees contributed 37 reports and boxes to Annual Consultation Reports since 2017. Some topics include “Credit to Private Sector in Selected ASEAN Countries” in Cambodia (2019), “Upgrading the Debt Management Framework” for Lao PDR(2019), “Transforming State-owned Banks as Effective Agents of Economic Development” in Myanmar (2019), and “Evolution of Vietnam’s Export Structure and the Impact of Global Shocks on Vietnam’s Exports (2018). Also, some secondees co-authored blogs for AMRO’s website. Some titles include “Revival of Korea’s Semiconductor Exports is In Sight”, “Transforming the Resource Sector in Lao PDR”, and “Can Foreign Workers be the Key to Unlock Japan’s Labor Shortages?

In addition, the secondees support AMRO in gathering country-specific economic information and data in local languages. Thanks to their strong networks in their respective countries, the secondees also assist with meeting arrangements with public and private financial institutions for AMRO’s visits to their home countries.

During their stint at AMRO, the secondees have the opportunities to attend training on macroeconomics and finance organized by other financial institutions, as well as seminars and conferences held in Singapore and overseas. Stationed in AMRO’s office in Singapore, the secondees have a chance to exchange knowledge on surveillance methodologies with AMRO staff and other secondees on a daily basis, deepening their analytical skills.

Past secondees found the experiences with AMRO unique and rewarding.

“Working in AMRO has helped me gain a much deeper understanding of macroeconomic surveillance, risks, and vulnerabilities assessment, and how to provide authoritative assessment or recommendation on relevant macroeconomic issues,” said Ms. Malichanh Chiemsisoulath, a technical official at the Bank of the Lao PDR, who was seconded to AMRO from December 2018 to November 2019.

Feedback from our members shows that the secondees are able to apply the knowledge and experience gained from AMRO to their work at the parent organizations upon their return.

Mr. Dang Minh Quang, an official from the State Bank of Vietnam found that the experience gained from his secondment with AMRO in 2019 particularly useful in enhancing the monetary and banking policy decision-making process and assisting his organization with preparations for Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020.

Long-term impact

Upon returning to their parent organizations, the secondees can plant the seeds for longer-term impact.

Many secondees return to their parent organizations, contributing to the international affairs department and the ASEAN+3 finance process. With a better understanding of AMRO and the CMIM, the secondees are able to provide useful input to discussions on ASEAN+3 regional financial cooperation at both working and (deputy) ministerial levels based on their work experience and knowledge obtained at AMRO.

They can also share the experience and knowledge gained during the secondment period with other colleagues, creating a pervasive and long-lasting impact in their parent organizations.

Past secondees continue to keep in close contact with AMRO staff virtually as well as in-person during AMRO’s staff visit to their home countries. This is extremely helpful in ensuring timely and smooth communication with member authorities, enhancing bilateral relations.

As a coordinator of the Secondment Program, I am encouraged to witness the growth of the secondee alumni and how the network forms a bridge between AMRO and our members. I strongly believe that these secondees will contribute toward a stronger ASEAN+3 regional financial cooperation and collaboration between member authorities and AMRO.