SAARC business leaders for fighting poverty thru' forming economic union
Refayet Ullah Mirdha
South Asian businessmen at the first-ever SAARC Business Leaders' Conclave echoed the sentiment of the political leaders of the region to combat poverty through the formation of an economic union by removing all visible and invisible barriers to trade.
This announcement came in the Delhi Declaration after the two-day SAARC Business Leaders' Conclave held in New Delhi from November 17-18 aiming to improve economic integration among SAARC member countries.
The business leaders unanimously agreed to cooperate with the political leaderships in the formation of economic union in this area.
Earlier, the top SAARC political leaders at the 13th summit in Dhaka agreed to form the 'SAARC Poverty Alleviation Fund (SPAF)' to improve the living standard of 1.5 billion people of the area. They also declared the next 10 years as 'SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation'.
President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Mir Nasir Hossain, who led a 23-member business delegation at the conclave, told the FE in Dhaka: "All the participants emphasised on the successful formation of an economic union for fighting the curse of poverty".
Hossain said the chamber leaders agreed on the completion of infrastructure connectivity, working towards trade facilitation by harmonising the customs regulations, easing visa regulations, and opening new transit routes.
Quoting the Delhi Declaration, Hossain said the leaders also agreed for refurbishing current transit routes, allowing cross border movement without transshipment and exchanging updated market information.
He said the leaders participated in six separate business sessions including Improving Competitiveness and Growth in South Asia, South Asia in Global Economy: Regional and Global Integration, Investment Climate in South Asia, How to Improve Technology Skills and Innovation in South Asia and SAARC Meeting in Soft Power.
"The trade among the SAARC nations is very low and the businessmen of the region are not interested to invest on a intra-regional basis due to an alleged anti-business climate existing here," Hossain said.
Experts said only 5.0 per cent trade takes place annually among the SAARC member countries on an intra-regional basis while the EU countries conduct nearly 50 per cent trade among the EU bloc.
The next SAARC Business Leaders Conclave will he held in 2007, but the venue was not mentioned in it, the Delhi Declaration said.
In his address to the business leaders at the November 12-13 summit, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed hopes that implementing SAFTA would lead to a free flow of trade and boost intra-regional trade from the present level of US $ 6.0 billion to $ 14 billion annually within the next two years.