SAARC calls for boosting cooperation with World Bank

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has called for bolstering cooperation and partnership with the World Bank for achieving the goals of poverty reduction, enhancing economic cooperation and regional integration, reports BSS.

“We look forward to strengthening cooperation and partnership with the World Bank for achieving the goals of poverty reduction, enhancing economic cooperation and regional integration, trade facilitation, improving financial accountability and capacity building, in conformity with the MoU signed between the two organisations in 2006, ” said Amjad Hussain B. Sial, the secretary general of the eight-nation regional grouping.

He was addressing the 14th Informal Meeting of the SAARC Finance Ministers in Washington on Thursday.

The SAARC secretary general thanked the World Bank for facilitating holding of this Informal Meeting of SAARC Finance Ministers, according to a message received on Friday.

This is the first Informal Meeting being held on the sidelines of an Annual Meeting of the World Bank.

Hossain said the primary objective of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated economic growth in the region.

“Improvement in economic relations among the member states of the SAARC is the key to accelerated economic growth for improving standards of living of people,” he said.

The SAARC secretary general said the theme of the meeting bears considerable significance in view of the increasing emphasis being given to regional economic integration.

“This is one dimension of the visionary goal set by our leaders for achieving the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through creation of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union,” he said.

Hossain said trade facilitation has been recognised as an important tool for higher economic growth and reducing poverty in developing countries. “Studies have shown that there are several bottlenecks that cause considerable trade delays and high transaction costs in South Asia,” he said. 

The SAARC secretary general said better trade facilitation will promote trade and economic development in South Asia. “The emphasis on trade facilitation is thus timely and appropriate, especially in view of its significant positive impact on economic development,” he said.

Hossain said for deeper regional economic integration and promotion of intra-SAARC trade, it is necessary to work collectively to bring down tariffs; eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and para-tariff barriers (PTBs), reduce sensitive lists under SAFTA; enhance energy cooperation; implement SATIS.

He also put emphasis on improving regional connectivity by rail, road, air and maritime; introducing measures for visa facilitation; finalising the SAARC Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments; widening the scope of the SAARC Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters; and harmonizing customs procedures and documentation to facilitate movement of goods and services across the region. The SAARC, founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985, is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states comprise Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.