Union Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley chaired the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Finance Ministers’ Meeting on 3rd April 2017 at Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. Along with Finance Ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, officials from Asian Development Bank (ADB) were also present. It is to be noted that ADB plays a role of a patron for SASEC and also serves as the Secretariat for the SASEC member countries.
- From this meeting onwards, Myanmar has become the 7th nation to join SASEC as a member country.
Improving Intra-Regional Connectivity to boost Trade and Tourism
SASEC Vision, announced during the meeting was centred on improving connectivity within the region to boost trade and tourism. The objective is to generate $70 billion incremental GDP and create 20 million jobs by year 2025.
SASEC Members have agreed to create synergies through following activities to achieve this goal:
- Increasing volume of trade in Oil and Gas
- Leveraging natural resources-based industries
- Promoting industry-to-industry linkages
- Improving people-to-people contact
- Establishing gateways and hubs for expanding trade and commerce to regional and global markets
The SASEC members aspire to become ‘better, stronger and faster’ and thereby make South Asia the economic powerhouse of Asia.The strategic vision document titled “SASEC: Powering Asia in the 21st Century” will supplement the SASEC Operational Plan 2016-2025, which was released in May 2016.
Key Points from Mr. Arun Jaitley’s speech at SASEC Meeting:
- Jaitley mentioned that synergies directed towards boosting trade and tourism will also benefit small and medium enterprises in the South Asian region.
- Having access to key ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar will benefit the agro and forest-based industries of India’s North Eastern region.
- He highlighted India’s efforts in building regional cooperation through building power transmission lines for supplying electricity to Bangladesh and Nepal.
- Mentioning about India’s ‘Act East Policy’, Mr. Jaitley said that India is keen on improving relations and connectivity with Eastern countries.
Role of Asian Development Bank (ADB):
Nine SASEC investment projects worth USD 2.4 billion were approved by ADB in year 2016. Out of these, USD 1.2 billion worth projects pertained to construction of transport and economic corridors in India. Official ADB statement has mentioned that 19 projects worth USD 3.6 billion, planned for 2017-19 are under consideration for funding approval. All these projects are focused on energy, transport, trade facilitation and economic corridor development.