Mahat calls for finalising SAARC pact

Kathmandu, November 7

Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat has underlined the need of finalising the SAARC Agreement on Protection and Promotion of Investment.

Inaugurating a two-day workshop on ‘Deeper integration for South Asia’s greater prosperity’ organised here coinciding with the fourth annual conference of the South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutes (SANEI), Minister Mahat highlighted the need of mutual cooperation among the SAARC member countries in regard to removing the dual taxation system and thus creating conducive atmosphere for regional investment.

Economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities are essential to have stronger economic integration, he said, insisting on broader investment for the same.

A draft of a regional investment policy should be formulated and the national information system must be upgraded to impart information about the investment status of any SAARC member country.

Stating that limited infrastructure for rail service in the South Asian landlocked countries has caused inconvenience in transporting goods, he was of the view of promoting regional transport corridor, constructing the South Asian rail network and maintaining uniformity on the investment in trans-border transport projects and trade rule and regulations.

The demand for energy across South Asia is increasing and there is abundant potentiality of mutual cooperation in this sector, he added.

Uniformity in rules and regulations for regional power grid, energy trade and facilitation and a substantive action for investment in energy sector and its dissemination are necessary, he stressed.

“Let’s develop a model of regional integration that helps promote market connectivity and strengthen people-to-people relations,” he said, adding that clear vision and collective willpower are mandatory for a regional integrity. The effective implementation of the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services is the need of the hour, he said, underlining the need of expansion of a regional market by removing the non-customs barriers.

He further said SAARC Agreement on Open Sky must be implemented to increase connectivity among the member countries in the SAARC.

Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Chiranjibi Nepal said the government has come up with sound facilities and incentive to promote foreign investment in the country.

Bishwambher Pyakuryal, a senior economist, said agenda of economic integration have been relegated to the backburner as the free trade association, customs mechanism and the common market mechanism have failed to perform effectively.

SANEI Coordinator Bishnudev Panta said the network is committed to commencing concrete economic research and establishing inter-country connectivity on matters of regional cooperation, partnership and broader interests of development.

Global Development Network President Pierre Jacquet said the development policy of the South Asian countries should be developed in an innovative way and implemented accordingly.

Wahiduddin Mahmud, economics professor at Dhaka University, stressed on need of finding a way for economic prosperity facing challenges in industrialisation, economic stability and environmental challenges.

The conference would discuss on matters relating to economic integration, economic development, human resource development, global production network and mechanism, trade barriers, among others.