Call for regional economic integration in South Asia

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LAHORE, Nov 05 (APP): SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Pak chapter) Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik Sunday said South Asia had a viable potential to make the region a magnet for the greater trade, investment and financial flows.
Talking to reporters here, he stressed the need for regional economic integration in South Asia on the pattern of Europe, Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
He was of the view that South Asia could become a main economic hub if all indigenous resources were fully exploited.
Malik said South Asia had the second highest intra-regional trade costs and underlined the need for a South Asian economic union with greater connectivity and forward movement on pending agreements among member states including rail, energy, highways, cargo and ferry services among the ports.
He said the intra-regional trade in South Asia constituted only 1.4 percent of the total world imports and 1.2 percent of exports, whereas merchandise trade was only 27.9 percent of GDP, the lowest in the world. He said that world development indicators revealed South Asia houses 1.79 billion world’s population thus representing a large workforce, tremendous business and investment opportunities.
The SAARC leader said the chamber had fully supported the government-industry partnership and remained engaged in dialogue with governments of the SAARC region. He called for promotion of regional and economic cooperation in South Asia.
He said the region was today confronted with serious energy crisis as per capita power consumption was among the lowest in the world and 30 percent energy demands were met through import. At the same time the presence of natural gas in Bangladesh, coal and petroleum in India and Pakistan, hydro-power in Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan could be a basis for regionally integrated energy cooperation.
He said history made neighbours, which could not be changed and they should work together for the betterment and welfare of the people besides prosperity, development and progress in the region.