SAARC ministers agree to reduce telecom tariff

Himalayan News Service

Islamabad, July 2:

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) communications ministers agreed to reduce telecom tariff within the grouping to the lowest extent feasible, Online news agency reports. The reduction would be done within the framework of cost orientation based on international benchmarks. The commitment was expressed in a plan of action approved unanimously by delegates at the end of the 2nd SAARC communications ministers meeting that ended here yesterday. The delegates recognised the rapid technological changes taking place globally in telecom and its vital role in promoting economic development and vowed to enhance regional cooperation in the sector in the SAARC region. They also agreed to adopt a comprehensive strategy for increasing cooperation to facilitate the expansion of telecommunications facilities in the region.

During the last formal session, the ministers agreed to enhance cooperation for the development of information and communication technologies to achieve social and economic uplift. They also agreed to share information and resources besides exchanging fellowships and training facilities in telecommunications. The action plan called for harnessing telecom technologies for social and economic uplift of the region through infrastructure development by optimal sharing of resources and enhanced cooperation in technology transfer. It also called for promoting cooperation in enhancement of telecommunication links and utilisation of IT within the SAARC region to minimise disparities among member states.

The member states agreed to offer special rates for transiting regional traffic and to use the facilities of other members for their overflow traffic. For this purpose, licensed international long distance operators would be encouraged to frequently negotiate agreements for offering lowest possible tariff. The delegates also agreed to facilitate intra-regional communications for travellers and entrepreneurs by promotion of country direct services, calling cards, cellular

roaming and liberalised leased lines within the regulatory frameworks of member states.