South Asia Economic Summit begins in Kathmandu today
Asjadul Kibria, Kathmandu
November 14, 2017
The 10th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) begins in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu today, aiming to deepen regional economic integration through bringing new ideas.
Nepalese Prime Minister Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba is scheduled to inaugurate the three-day event at Hyatt Regency Kathmandu in the afternoon.
The theme of the summit is: Deepening Economic Integration for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in South Asia.
Kathmandu-based South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) in association with National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Commerce of the government of Nepal are organising the summit.
The SAES was launched in 2008 and now considered as a premier regional platform for analysing trade, economic and development issues.
“The Tenth Summit aims to identify and prioritise opportunities and challenges in deepening regional economic integration to serve the goals of inclusive and sustainable development in South Asia,” said Dr Posh Raj Pandey, chairman of SAWTEE.
“We are expecting that participants will take stock of past efforts and chart a more meaningful course of regional cooperation over the next decade for the region.”
Representatives from the government, private sector, research and academic community, civil society and media across the region are taking part in the brainstorming sessions.
Dr Selim Raihan, executive director of Dhaka-based South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), however, observed that a very slow progress in the regional integration in South Asia also reflected in the SAES.
“That’s why we are talking and discussing almost same things for the last 10 years and so we need some new thoughts,” he told the FE on Monday. “We hope this meeting will bring some new ideas to advance the regional integration.”
The economist also opined that regional integration in South Asia would be shaped differently. “It may not be possible to move towards customs union after establishing the free trade area and then towards common market and finally economic union,” he added.
He explained that already the regional countries were discussing about investment and services integration, and regional trade facilitation.
“South Asia now needs to think like ASEAN economic community,” he added.
Dr Raihan also stressed on India’s more proactive leadership role to deepen the regional integration.
He also suggested that as a goodwill gesture to facilitate regional integration, Pakistan should immediately grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, which is a basic principle of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
He also opined that Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka needed to seriously review and cut down their sensitive lists under the agreement on South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA).