“What is good for Asia, is good for the United States,” noted Gloria Steele, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Asia Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. “Our goal in Asia,” she explained in a recent interview, “is to help them become prosperous, free and open, and help them to achieve self-reliance.”
USAID was particularly successful in helping Vietnam improve their competitiveness by increasing transparency and streamlining business practices in the country, said Ms. Steele:
“Vietnam is now one of the highest growing countries from an economic perspective in the region. They have demonstrated the highest increase in terms of the WEF’s – the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness ranking in the region. And that has had significant impacts for both the people of Vietnam in terms of quality of life, as well as markets for the U.S.”
In Indonesia, USAID has been instrumental in advancing the energy sector, said Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Steele:
“We have been working with Indonesia, particularly the energy sector, and they have been able to work to make their policies such that there has been a lot of changes and improvements in modernizing the energy sector. . . .Again, this has served as a good source of investment, not just for local investors in Indonesia, but for the US investors as well.”
In the Philippines, USAID has supported the growth of e-commerce with an investment in mobile banking, which has enabled people who do not have access to banking services to use their mobile phones to manage their finances. It eventually developed into a system of e-payments, which are used not just for commerce, but for distributing social welfare services for the disadvantaged and marginalized in the country.
USAID will continue to help countries in Asia become economically self-sustaining by creating conditions that encourage private sector investment. Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Steele, said, USAID plans to “work with governments to make their policies so that they’re conducive to private sector involvement and there is a level playing field for legitimate private sector entities.”