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South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program

The issue in News

  • Cooperation between member-countries of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) could generate $70 billion in GDP and more employment.
  • The joint statement, made in Delhi following a meeting of the Finance Ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, also welcomed Myanmar into the coalition.

About SASEC group

  • The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Program, set up in 2001, brings together Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka in a project-based partnership.
  • To promote regional prosperity by improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries, and strengthening regional economic cooperation.
  • Since 2001, SASEC countries have implemented 46 regional projects worth over $9 billion in the energy, transport, trade facilitation, economic corridor development, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors.
  • The Manila, Philippines-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) serves as the Secretariat for the SASEC member countries.
  • SASEC seeks to strengthen multimodal cross-border transport networks that boosts intraregional trade and open up trade opportunities with East and Southeast Asia.

Area of Cooperation under SASEC

  • In 2005, the SASEC countries agreed on priority sectors for investment and coordinated action: transport, trade facilitation, and energy.
  • In 2016, the SASEC countries approved the SASEC Operational Plan 2016-2025, a 10-year strategic roadmap, which introduced Economic Corridor Development (ECD) as a fourth sectoral area of focus. SASEC also supports regional initiatives in ICT.
  • Transport — SASEC aims to put in place the critical multi-modal transport networks that will enhance intraregional trade and investment in the subregion and, in turn, boost economic growth.
  • SASEC works to strengthen road, rail, and air links, as well as developing port infrastructure to match the needs of the region’s growing economies, and to support the SAARC transport corridor network.
  • Trade Facilitation — SASEC is helping speed up the time and reduce the costs of trading across borders throughout the subregion.
  • Regional SASEC trade facilitation initiatives are creating modern customs administrations that are compliant with the terms and provisions of the Revised Kyoto Convention.
  • They are streamlined and transparent cross-border trade regulations and procedures, and improved information and services for the private sector.
  • Energy — SASEC is working to improve energy access and security in the region by developing essential infrastructure, and promoting intraregional power trade to reduce costs and import dependence.
  • SASEC energy initiatives focus on renewable energy.
  • Economic Corridor Development — SASEC is promoting synergies and linkages between economic corridors across SASEC countries to :
    • optimize development gains,
    • including industrial growth and competitiveness,
    • the creation of high-quality jobs,
    • increased productivity, and the strengthening existing value chains.

About the SASEC Meet

  • Secretaries and Joint Secretaries of Ministries of Finance of SASEC countries meet annually at the Nodal Officials Meeting, often held on the sidelines of ADB’s Annual General Meeting.
  • Nodal officials review and provide strategic direction for cooperation under SASEC.
  • Four SASEC technical working groups (transport, trade facilitation, energy and ICT) represented by the Joint Secretary or Director General of each SASEC country, meet regularly to review strategic priorities and progress or projects.
  • The Meeting of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) Transport Ministers on Regional Road Transport Connectivity finalized and endorsed the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA).
  • The BBIN MVA is a landmark framework agreement to facilitate the seamless flow of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic between and among the BBIN countries.

How to achieve the goal?

  • Countries will drive natural resource-based industries by tapping into latent industrial demand in the sub-region and promote sub-regional industry- to-industry links to develop regional value chains and enhance the area’s competitiveness.
  • Enhance the connectivity within the member countries and between them to improve productivity.
  • By unlocking the hitherto untapped potential of the subregion’s natural resources, industry and infrastructure through subregional cooperation.
  • India and Nepal are also exploring an electronic cargo tracking system.
  • Export of refined petroleum products to Bangladesh is recognised to benefit India as it expands the market for the refineries located in the northeast region of India.
  • In addition, utilizing ports in Bangladesh instead of the current proposed port at Paradip for crude imports may result in annual savings for India.
  • Power trade in the sub-region also presents a significant opportunity with gains and savings for member countries, and may collectively help the member countries move towards their energy security goals.
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