Non-cooperation costs Saarc nations business worth $8 bn

July 3rd, 2008 - 6:13 pm ICT by IANS  


Dhaka, July 3 (IANS) Sheel Kant Sharma, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) secretary general, says nations in the region miss business opportunities worth $8 billion a year due to non-cooperation and could double the amount of investments they attract by checking corruption. If ‘unofficial’ businesses in the region could be checked, business opportunities worth three to four times the amount would have been created, Sharma said at the “Saarc: Short Window of Opportunity” conference organised here Wednesday by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI).

Quoting a study, he said: “The cost of opportunity lost due to non-cooperation among the South Asian nations is $8 billion.”

He, however, expressed optimism that the Saarc processes, which appear to be moving like a locomotive, are steady and will surely witness success.

Terming the present situation in the Saarc region “unprecedented”, Sharma said: “On the economic side, the countries have good growth rates. Foreign exchange reserves are also good.”

“Promising things are in our hand. These are now at the stage of implementation,” he added.

Sharma, who became the Saarc secretary general on March 1, described the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) and Saarc Development Fund as the successes of the forum of the eight countries in the region.

A few more projects of the development fund will be initiated before the next summit in Colombo, he added.

In his keynote address, Sharma said the priorities in the last summit were energy, water, food and climate change and work on these areas progressed on their own ways.

“The Colombo summit (in August) will be a time for our leaders to pronounce these issues,” The Daily Star quoted him as saying.

A Saarc Food Bank has already been established for food security of South Asian nations and four countries have already ratified it, one will ratify it soon and the rest are also expected to follow, Sharma said.

In terms of population, the Saarc is the biggest regional grouping and all the governments are heavily engaged in addressing problems of their nationalities, he said, adding that although these efforts are regional, they are implemented on national basis.

Comparing Saarc with other regional bodies like the European Union (EU) and Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), he said today all refer to these regional groupings, but these also took time to cooperate and consolidate.

The Saarc Secretariat requires more skilled and expert manpower to strengthen it, Sharma added.

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