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$300m poverty reduction fund under SAARC on the cards


Bangladesh, as next chairman of SAARC, plans to pursue substantial fund raising for implementing SAARC projects particularly on poverty alleviation in the member states, reports UNB.
A senior Foreign Ministry official told correspondents Monday that the forthcoming summit would also take initiative to streamline various proposed funds into a single fund with an initial capital of $ 300 million. It may be named South Asian Poverty Development Fund (SAPDF).
At present only South Asian Development Fund (SADF) exists with $ 6 million in the coffer. It was initially set up with $5.0 million, but in absence of any precise guidelines, the SADF virtually remained unutilised.
The SADF so far has financed about 10 feasibility studies of some poverty-alleviation projects, but those projects could not be launched for lack of initiative from private sector.
"As new SAARC chair, Bangladesh would concentrate on raising fund by way of contributions from the member states, individual philanthropists or donor agencies for implementing projects to alleviate poverty since a paltry amount of six million dollars is not enough to run any project," said the official.
The SAARC Experts Committee at its last meeting held in Kathmandu from September 1 to 2 agreed in principle to launch the SAARC Poverty Alleviation Fund with initial capital of $ 300 million to be mobilised from contributions of the member countries and individual contributions.
Now the proposal might be placed for approval of the summit leaders in Dhaka after being endorsed by the SAARC Finance Secretaries and SAARC Finance Ministers.
The proposed Poverty Alleviation Fund may have three windows: Economic Wing, Social Wing and Infrastructure Wing.
Asked about the four agreements related to trade, investment, customs and arbitration centre, the official said that Bangladesh has taken initiative to complete the domestic procedures so that the deals could be signed at the Dhaka summit.
Host Bangladesh has requested the concerned officials of six other member-states to make necessary preparations so that the deals could be finalised in the pre-summit meetings in Dhaka.
Of the four agreements, there are some disputes on two-Promotion and Protection of Investment and Arbitration Council Centre.
The official said negotiations have not yet been completed on the question of most favoured-nation status under an article of the agreement titled 'Promotion and Protection of Investment.'
Besides, consensus could not be reached on the venue of SAARC Arbitration Council. India has officially expressed its willingness to have the centre in its capital.
The official said the SAARC Information Ministers at a meeting recently decided to set up a SAARC Media Development Fund in Kathmandu with an initial fund of 0.1 million US dollars.