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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Sep 12, 2012

LET?S REBUILD SOUTH ASIA

The 5th South Asia Economic Summit kicked off Tuesday saying trade alone is not enough for deeper regional integration, it has to be complimented with reforms related to investment, a cooperative mechanism to manage and utilize natural resources such as water and cooperation between regulatory bodies and promotion of supply chains.

“While governments are currently more focused on trade agenda, it remains the responsibility of civil society to keep reminding the governments of such issues as well which in no manner are less important than trade,” cautioned the speakers. The 3-day summit is going to discuss issues relating to South Asia economic outlook, impacts of global financial crisis, regional trade, energy cooperation, transport connectivity, trade normalization and engaging youth and Diaspora for economic growth. Over 114 foreign delegates, 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 this year.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the Summit, Federal Minister of Defence, Syed Naveed Qamar called upon the South Asian governments to look at the disconnection between macro and micro economic performance so that they can 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.

“Unless we fight poverty, illiteracy and poor health standards in South Asia and complement this struggle with enabling environment for businesses to generate employment – it will remain a challenge to compete with other regions of the world,” the minister concluded.

He said on the trade front, 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: “We live in a region with regular natural disasters in the form of droughts, floods and earthquakes and it’s now time to realize that we have not paid much attention to address the impacts of climate change in this region.”

In his welcome speech, SDPI Executive Director, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri praised the incumbent 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, “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 to all citizens addressing economic disparity within and between countries.
Rajiva Wijesinha, Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka said, many developed countries are pushing for freeing capital movements but are denying freer movement of labor across the world.