Government, ADB launch Sasec operational plan

Government, ADB launch Sasec operational plan

  • The multilateral lending institution aims to implement projects worth over $100b in S Asia

Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 8, 2016- The government together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday launched the operational plan for implementation of over $100 billion worth of projects on trade facilitation, and energy and transportation sector development in South Asia, in a bid to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region. The operational plan for South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) contains comprehensive strategies to roll out 209 projects worth $121.5 billion. These projects will be implemented in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka within 2025. Of these projects, 37 will be implemented in Nepal with an estimated cost of over $30 billion.

The operational plan launched on Monday is the first ever long-term plan for Sasec, according to Kenichi Yokoyama, country director of the ADB, the lead financier and secretariat to the Sasec programme. “It has unified strategies under Sasec’s three priority areas--transport, trade facilitation and energy--under one framework and has added the spatial dimension of economic corridor development [in the region],” Yokoyama told the operational plan launching event. The operational plan aims to align land- and sea-based routes to support efficient distribution and collection of goods, and ensure seamless movement of people in the region. In this regard, roads will be upgraded or expanded, rail lines for routes that ferry high-volume cargoes will be increased, deep sea ports that can handle larger vessels will be developed, and congested international airports, including their storage spaces, will be expanded.

Also, more inland container depots will be built, land customs stations will be upgraded, and port infrastructure will be developed or expanded to cope with anticipated growth in container traffic. These efforts to enhance connectivity will enable countries to gain better access to markets, paving the way for nations to integrate into regional and global value chains. This is ultimately expected to reduce trade costs and enhance competitiveness of different countries, raising the trade volume in the region.

Trade among South Asian countries currently hovers around 5 percent of the total regional trade. In contrast, trade among Southeast Asian countries stands at around 25 percent of their total trade. Yet, trade between South Asia and Southeast Asia has grown by whopping 22 times between 1990 and 2013. “This indicates the potential for South Asia to tap into Southeast Asia’s burgeoning integrated market of 625 million people,” Yokoyama said. In this regard, plans are afoot to link Sasec with Myanmar, which can emerge as a gateway for South Asian countries to enter the Southeast Asian market.

To further facilitate regional trade, the operational plan also focuses on simplifying trade documentation, automating transit processes, developing infrastructure to facilitate quarantine checks, and integrating border clearance processes through national single windows. Focus is also on improving cross-border transmission connectivity, promoting power trade and cooperation in energy efficiency, and clean power development.

The ADB has approved 43 Sasec projects worth almost $9 billion in transport, energy, trade facilitation, and information and communications technology since Sasec’s launched in 2001. This cooperation of the last 15 years has now been taken to a higher level with the launch of the operational plan, the ADB said.