EDITORIAL: Let’s share benefits

Leaders of the sub-region must dwell on effective ways to make BIMSTEC more effective and business-like

Heads of government/state of the member countries of the sub-regional bloc have gathered in Kathmandu to take part in the fourth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) being held here today. The summit to be inaugurated by Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli is expected to create a development fund for overall economic development of the sub-regional bloc. It is also expected to devise a charter, along with the process of working out Rules of Procedures of BIMSTEC Mechanism. This mega event is being held with the theme “Towards Peaceful, Prosperous and Sustainable Bay of Bengal Region”. Nepal is hosting such a big event for the first time after the country adopted the new constitution in 2015 and after holding elections for three tiers of government in the federal setup. Established some 20 years ago with a view to enhancing mutual cooperation in the region in the technical and economic sectors, BIMSTEC has been very slow in achieving its stated goals. The 19th senior official level meeting on Tuesday considered exploring the possibility of establishing BIMSTEC Development Fund which is expected to be endorsed by the summit on Friday.

Economic growth, trade and connectivity in the sub-region are the main areas of cooperation for attaining prosperity in the region. The meeting has also stressed the need to work out on the charter for institutional development and strengthening BIMSTEC. The secretary level meeting considered a number of reports related to customs cooperation, connectivity, technology, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, agriculture, poverty alleviation, public health and its secretariat for strengthening the bloc.

While addressing both Houses of Parliament, PM Oli outlined that BIMSTEC summit would mainly focus on the expansion of connectivity, construction of Buddhist circuit, climate change, poverty alleviation, promotion of Himalayan economy and counter-terrorism activities. He also made it clear that BIMSTEC was not an alternative to SAARC which came into existence way back in 1985. But both hold equal importance, Oli said. It is also expected that the BIMSTEC will also sign a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of transnational grid connection. The idea of an integrated regional grid connection had been high on the agenda even before. But it could not take its shape as the summit could not be held regularly. Nepal can expect immense benefit from the sub-regional grid interconnection given an abundant potential of water resources and her proximity with member states. Holding a periodic summit will not serve the very purpose of making the Bay of Bengal region prosperous. Leaders of the sub-region must dwell on effective ways to make BIMSTEC more effective and business-like. We have seen that ASEAN and EU have emerged as effective regional blocs in achieving the goals of economic cooperation among the member states. But South Asia is the only region which has not been up to the mark when it comes to working for economic cooperation. A regional bloc will exist in paper only unless its member states sincerely cooperate with one another for shared benefits, peace and prosperity of its peoples. Let’s hope BIMSTEC will become a success towards this goal.

Monsoon diseases

Monsoon showers are while good for agriculture, they bring a much-needed respite from hot weather conditions. But the onset of monsoon brings with it an increase in cases of various diseases. A report from Sindhuli says the District Hospital in the last 10 days has seen a sharp rise in the number of patients. Most of the patients visiting the hospital are seeking treatment for common cold, cough and diarrhoea, among other diseases. Among these, diarrhoeal disease can be dangerous if not treated on time. According to the WHO, diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old.

According to the hospital, around 300 patients a day are frequenting the 50-bed health facility these days. This is 10 times more than usual patient pressure at the hospital. Sindhuli is just a case in point. During monsoon, there is a rise in number of patients across the country. There is a need to raise awareness about monsoon diseases and equip hospitals with staff, equipment and medicines. Authorities must carry out awareness campaigns round the year about preventive measures as well.