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New Age Business

Published Date: Oct 14, 2016

South Asian economic summit starts tomorrow

CPD says SAARC still has importance

The Centre for Policy Dialogue on Thursday said that necessity of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had not diminished, but will prevail, despite the strains in relations among different member countries on various issues and some sub-regional initiatives. 

Importance of SAARC will prevail considering its regional integration, geographical proximity and social and cultural closeness among people, the independent think-tank said. 

At a press conference on the upcoming ninth South Asia Economic Summit (SAES IX), the CPD said that Bangladesh would have to reap the benefits of SAARC and other sub-regional and cross-regional opportunities. The two-day summit titled ‘Reimagining South Asia in 2030’ will be held at Hotel Le Meridien on October 15-16 in Dhaka. 

Five South Asian leading think tanks are jointly organising the summit hosted by the CPD where over 60 participants including ministers, parliament members, economists, experts, academics and business leaders will attend. The other coorganisers of the summit include Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, India, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, Nepal. 

‘The SAARC which represents one-fourth of the world population will remain and it should not be wise to consider the importance of the association in the current context,’ CPD executive director Mustafizur Rahman said. Strains in relations exist in all such regional initiatives as could be seen in European Union where Britain left the union after 60 years of its formation, he said. 

There will be sub-regional initiatives like Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement and cross-regional initiatives like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) for achieving the goals of SAARC, he added. 

The initiatives are not contradictory with the SAARC, he said. 

He said that SAARC member countries would have to ensure connectivity in four areas—trade, transport, people and investment—to reach the target of formation of SA Economic Union adopted in 2000 by the leaders of the association. 

SAARC has much potentials to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 through deepening the mutual cooperation despite the association has many challenges, Mustafiz said. Bangladesh will have to utilise the opportunity, he said, adding that China and India are also two major prospects for the country. 

Regarding the SAES IX, he said that the conference was important to strengthen the relationship in the current context when the SAARC Summit has been postponed which was supposed to be held in Pakistan in November. ‘We hope the crisis will be resolved,’ he said. 

The annual SAES summit which was being held since 2008 will hopefully play a role in improving relationships among the countries as policy makers, experts and trade leaders from the member countries will discuss on issues and challenges, he added. 

Though SAARC region generates 8.7 per cent of global gross domestic product, the rate of intra-region trade is very low at 5 per cent, he added. 

CPD research director Fahmida Khatun said that necessity of SAARC which is the second fastest developing regions after East Asia still needed to remove the political conflict and mistrust among the countries as people of the region are well connected in the social, cultural and trade areas. 

CPD additional research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said that BBIN was never the alternative of SAARC as the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement was derived from the idea of SAARC MVA. 

Importance of SAARC is above all the initiatives, he said.