South Asian ministers emphasise on intra-regional trade, investmentPolitical issues, which have held South Asia’s development agendas as hostage, will prevent the region from achieving its growth potential in the coming days, unless the private sector intervenes and promotes trade and investment to spur economic growth.
Political issues, which have held South Asia’s development agendas as hostage, will prevent the region from achieving its growth potential in the coming days, unless the private sector intervenes and promotes trade and investment to spur economic growth.
Views along this line were expressed by ministers and private sector representatives of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) member countries, who gathered in Kathmandu on Sunday to attend the closing session of the three-day Saarc Business Leaders’ Conclave organised by the Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
They said political leaders of Saarc member countries should introduce policies to promote intra-regional investment and ensure hassle-free cross-border movement of goods and people as envisaged by the Saarc Charter.
“Saarc members have failed to implement agreements on trade on goods signed in 2006 and trade on service signed in 2012,” said Matrika Yadav, Nepali minister for industry, commerce and supplies. “End of red tape at borders, construction of warehouses and intra-regional investment could help streamline trade facilitation process.”
Yadav also pushed for early finalisation of the Saarc Integrated Programme of Action (Sipa) so that it could be implemented. Sipa has envisioned formation of seven technical committees to cover seven economic areas from agricultural and rural development; communications and transport; and social development to environment, meteorology and forestry; science and technology; human resource development and energy.
Padma Jyoti, former president of the Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said South Asian governments should develop the region as a single market to attract foreign direct investment. Stressing on the need to simplify paperwork for cross-border movement of goods and people, Jyoti said, “Transport and transit are the main bottlenecks, which can only be removed if governments of member countries show commitment.”
South Asian countries had formed the Saarc in 1985 to promote economic development and deepen regional cooperation and integration. Since its formation, various framework agreements have been signed for sustained economic development of the region. But many of these pacts have not been effectively enforced.
During the last Saarc summit held in Kathmandu in 2014, for example, the eight-nation bloc signed a framework agreement on energy cooperation. But it is not known when South Asian countries will be able to reap benefit from this pact. Humyoon Rasaw, Afghan minister for commerce and industries, said cross-border energy trade could help all the countries in the region. For this, strategic partnership, which is the cornerstone for sustained economic development of the region, must be formed, said the minister.
Bhutanese Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said South Asian governments should translate commitments into action, develop regional infrastructure and remove “unspoken barriers” including sensitive lists and a range of domestic taxes.