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Dawn

Published Date: Sep 13, 2012

SOUTH ASIA NEEDS STRUCTURAL REFORMS

South Asian countries need to develop resilient mechanism to save themselves through inclusive growth and structural reforms.

This was the consensus of majority speakers at the second day of the South Asia Economic Summit. The participants called for building greater synergies between ASEAN and SAARC to benefit from each other’s experiences in order to achieve the goal of inclusive development in South Asia.

Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan Nadeem ul Haque stressed the need for adopting changing drivers of economic growth, one of which was to encourage entrepreneurship.

Mr Haq highlighted various untapped sectors which need to be included in the growth paradigm to achieve inclusive growth.

“Development cannot be achieved solely by changes in domestic policies, rather it also needs to benefit from increasing intra-regional trade integration,” he said.

Nagaish Kumar from UNESCAP said that South Asia, by building synergies with ASEAN’s best practices and economic and development modeling, can have better gains from the potential of economic development in the region.

“We need to think of a super-structure that links the markets in these two regions”, he observed.

Meanwhile, Chief Economist World Bank (South Asia) Kalpana Kochar said: “The centre of gravity of global economy is now significantly shifting to Asia and thus creating a space for Asian nations to benefit from this paradigm shift.”

Speakers at the session on food security and regional agricultural trade highlighted the need to look at regional trade with a food security lens as 40 per cent of the world’s hungry population resides in South Asia.

Centre for Policy Dialogue Bangladesh’s Khondaker Golam Moazzem stressed that the governments in South Asia need to analyse factors changing the sector both internally and externally.

Other panelists including Pradeep Kumar Shrestha from Nepal and Bhim Raj Gurung from Bhutan agreed that regional cooperation is essential to ensure food security and must be incorporated into national policies.

Annisul Huq of Bangladesh concluded that growth of regional trade has bleak chances unless the tiresome visa process is relaxed and governments become less conservative to trade.

Dr. Saman Kelegama from Sri Lanka said South Asia has the highest cost for inter-regional trade as compared to other regions in the world. “Three fourth of the SAARC trade potential is not being utilised due to non-tariff barriers in the region,” he added.

Sonam Tashi from Ministry of Economic Affair, Bhutan highlighted the need to increase chances of ‘connecting at the highest level of decision making’ for free trade agreements to be effectively implemented.

The experts at the panel on Regional Energy Cooperation lamented that around 289 million people in India, 96 million in Bangladesh and 64 million in Pakistan are without access to electricity.

The session recommended inter-state energy cooperation, joint techno-economic evaluation of opportunities along with the support and participation of multiple stakeholders.

Deepti Mahajan from Energy Research Institute (TERI), India said: “Energy resources are concentrated in one country while capabilities to explore those resources are in another. Optimal utilisation of unequally distributed resources is the need of hour.”

Dipak Gyawali from Nepal said plural institutions are required to cater multiple sectors within the energy sector.

Bangladesh’s former Finance Minister M. Syeduzzaman said that South Asian countries should fully support initiatives in agriculture, regional water sharing and improved regional connectivity.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Orden from USA said that there is need to revisit initial goals to match the ever changing reality of South Asia’s economy.