Oct 21, 2012
An ESCAP report underlines the need for enhanced regional cooperation for least developed sub-regions in South and South-West Asia to catch up with their global peers.
Enhanced sub-regional cooperation can reduce wide development and infrastructure gaps in South and South-West Asia, stimulating growth that is more inclusive, sustainable and resilient to economic shocks and natural disasters, the United Nations told a high-level policymakers’ forum in New Delhi, October 18-19. Among the participants were Government policymakers, advisors and development experts from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
The United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr Noeleen Heyzer said that “cooperation can help spur more inclusive growth and drive the elimination of poverty in the sub-region. Greater regional integration not only increases intra-regional trade, but also promotes investment in the sub-region’s supply chain and production networks.”
“This creates more and better jobs and builds productive capacity, particularly in the sub-region’s least developed countries. Greater intraregional integration can also improve food and energy security, as well as help reduce disaster risk,” Dr. Heyzer noted. “Collective regional responses and solutions are more effective in addressing these challenges than individual country approaches.”
Said Mr Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, “India has always remained committed to the idea of regional cooperation and played an active role in promoting it. In light of the current slowdown in the industrialized world, regional economic integration is relevant within the sub-region more than ever, as the potential for the sub-region to integrate with itself remains untapped and huge consumption opportunities exist.”
Dr. Heyzer and Mr. Kher unveiled an ESCAP report prepared by its South and South-West Asia office setting out a policy agenda for harnessing cooperation among its ten member countries to promote inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth within the sub-region.
Kher underlined the importance of strengthening the manufacturing value chain across the South and South-West Asian sub-region and stated that political and policy interventions would offer new opportunities and resources to overcome the development deficit.
“Regional cooperation in South and South-West Asia can be an important strategy to address many of the challenges facing the sub-region. In the decade ahead, the 10 member states of the sub-region have the chance to cooperate amongst themselves to ensure not only its growth dynamism, but also its re-emergence as an important crossroads between the East and the West,” noted Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office and ESCAP Chief Economist.
According to the ESCAP South and South-West Asia Development Report 2012-13, the sub-region’s slowing growth together with the uncertainty in advanced economies is “exposing its structural challenges.” These include the need for more inclusive development, closing wide infrastructure gaps, strengthening food and energy security, diversifying and moving up the value chain in industrial and export structures, and reducing the risks and costs of disasters, particularly in the sub-region’s least developed countries (LDCs) and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs).
“Low productive capacity, particularly in the sub-region’s LDCs, limits their ability to move up the value chain and structurally transform their economies. Fundamental infrastructure gaps also threaten energy security and food security, and increase disaster risk,” notes the report. “Greater regional integration not only increases intra-regional trade, but also promotes investment in the sub-region’s supply chain and production networks.”
The report offers guidelines for South and South-West Asia to work together and with international development partners to boost food and energy security and trade, create employment opportunities for its large youth population and enhance connectivity across the sub-region and beyond.