South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation Eye AUD93 Billion in Travel Tourism

South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) which includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar is eyeing AUD 93 billion GDP in trade and tourism by 2025.

By Jagdish Kumar

Following deliberations with Finance Ministers from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar meeting in New Delhi, April 2017, India, along with the six South Asian countries mentioned, have pledged to improve intra-regional connectivity to boost trade and tourism as they aim for an AUD 93 billion GDP and 20 million jobs by 2025.

Speaking on this, Indian Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley says, “Our collective vision is for SASEC to power Asia in the 21st century, sustaining growth that synergises the growth of the natural resources of the sub-region, industry and infrastructure potential through an enhanced cooperation strategy”.

In a joint ministerial statement released by the SASEC Finance Ministers, it proposes that all member countries will accelerate and sustain the growth momentum of recent years by unlocking the hitherto untapped potential of the sub-region’s natural resources, industry and infrastructure through sub-regional cooperation.

SASEC is proposing to leverage natural resource-based industries by tapping into latent industrial demand within the sub-region and will promote sub-regional industry-to-industry links to develop regional value chains and enhance the sub-region’s competitiveness.

Connectivity within countries and between countries will be enhanced to improve the productivity of economic activities, including trade and tourism. The statement says that the SASEC is aiming to take advantage of common heritage and cultural ties to improve people-to-people contact.

According to SESAC, the region will be developed as a gateway and hub to expand the sub-region’s trade and commerce to regional and global markets. It is estimated that these synergies may generate an estimated AUD 93 billion annually in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025.

SASEC’s Operational Plan (2016-2025) defines the strategic objectives and operational priorities in transport, trade facilitation, and energy, as well suggestions for an economic corridor development to be adopted was also discussed at the New Delhi meet.

South Asia is forecasted to be one of the fastest growing sub-regions in the world.  According to discussions, SASEC stands at the threshold of a demographic dividend that may be harnessed to create more employment opportunities, and enhance productivity. SASEC says that progressive reforms are ongoing and, more importantly, the aspiration for sustainable and inclusive growth, which will ultimately improve peoples’ well-being is shared by all participating nations.

Investments in infrastructure will not only reach to trade gateways, but also to the hinterlands to help improve people’s access to economic opportunities, increase productivity and variety of goods and services, as well as provide better access to social services.

Connectivity between countries play a key for an inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth by linking the remote and landlocked areas to economic centres and providing opportunities for low-income populations.

To promote other beneficial linkages to hasten the process of South Asia’s wider integration with other sub-regions of Asia, SASEC says it will continue to engage with the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

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