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The News

Published Date: Sep 13, 2012


Federal Minister for Defence Syed Naveed Qamar has said that South Asian nations can compete the challenges of poverty, illiteracy and poor health standards only by complementing our struggle to fight these ailments by creating enabling environment for businesses which will generate much needed employment.

The minister was addressing the opening session of a three-day 5th South Asia Economic Summit here.

Over 114 delegates from foreign countries including ministers are participating in the summit. Recommendations of the summit would be submitted to Saarc Secretariat ahead of the upcoming annual Saarc Summit to be held in Nepal later this year.

Syed Naveed Qamar urged the South Asian governments to look at the disconnection between macro- and micro-economic performances so that they could realistically address growing poverty and improve social sector. He asked the scholars attending the summit to offer advice to the governments on trade in services and agricultural goods, intra-regional movement of people and trade in areas such as energy.

He said that we have taken concrete steps in reducing barriers to trade in South Asia and duties on intra-regional trade are being slashed to unprecedented levels. Stressing the need to understand South Asia’s perspective on post-2015 development forecast, the minister said that we live in a region with regular natural disasters in the form of droughts, floods and earthquakes and it is now time to realise that we have not paid “much attention to address the impacts of climate change in this region.”

Chairing the plenary, Nagesh Kumar of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, observed that South Asia proved to be the most resilient region despite the global financial crisis. While several countries of the region made impressive gains in achieving Millennium Development Goals and enhancing human development, the region faces several challenges particularly in the post 2015 development agenda, he said.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, appreciated the political leaderships of India and Pakistan for recent landmark initiatives such as new visa regime, MFN status to India by Pakistan and Indian decision allowing investment by Pakistani investors. He said that we can now see new clouds of hope amidst years of mistrust. He hoped that new agreements and advancement on issues relating to development would herald an optimistic future in South Asia. However, it cannot happen without an inclusive and pro-poor growth that benefits all citizens addressing economic disparity within and between countries.

Rajiva Wijesinha, Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka, said that many developed countries are pushing for freeing capital movements but are denying freer movement of labour across the world. He emphasised developing human resource through quality education adding that capacity building will greatly increase our productivity resulting in positive economic growth.

Madhu Raman Acharya, former secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal, said that Saarc has to reinvent itself to yield results as the region cannot be run on autopilot as we are doing it now. South Asia is one of the fastest growing regions yet one of the least economically integrated, he said.

Suhrab Hossain, High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Pakistan, said that South Asian intra-regional trade stands at mere 5 per cent as against 25-30 per cent in other regional blocs. We need to speed up opening up of markets, reduce tariff and other,” he said.

Mahendra P Lama, Vice-Chancellor Central University of Sikkim, India, said the dream of South Asian community could only be realised if they can transform their perception about borders from security centric perspective to a hub of socio-economic opportunities. He also called for enlarging and diversifying export basket by putting non-traditional goods such as energy on the list.

Debapriya Bhatachariya from Bangladesh said that productive employment, equity and empowerment would be critical factors determining post-2015 development agenda. Khalid Malik, Priya Shyamsundar and Yeshey Selden also spoke on the occasion.