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SAARC growth needs strong political will: Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant

SAARC growth needs strong political will: Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant

New Delhi, July 2 (UNI) A strong political will can lead to economic growth and poverty elimination in the SAARC region where the intra-trade, travel and tourism should be integrated, an effort being pursued by the SAARC Development Fund through a score of economic, infrastructure and social projects in diverse fields, according to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
Addressing the strategic SDF Partnership Conclave here on Monday, Mr Kant said that it goes to the credit of the SDF to have completed six projects, with six more in the pipeline in the SAARC countries amidst a host of complex issues.
The two-day conclave is being held to identify and raise finance for bankable economic, infrastructure and social projects in the SAARC countries.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which comprises India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, accounts for 21% of the global economy against 3.8 pc of the population of the world.
'It will be the political will, the determination and the bonding together of the SAARC countries which would enable the growth, eliminate poverty to take place. This is critical, this is important…. I think it is important that we take cross country projects.'
Doing cross country projects is very difficult and complex job but it goes to the credit of SDF which is working on a dozen of projects in the region, he said.
In his welcome address, the CEO of SDF Dr Sunil Motiwal, agreed with Mr Kant that a strong political will in the SAARC region can make a big difference to its development and growth. But, presently SAARC is least integrated region with only 3 per cent of its total trade taking place among the member countries.
Dr Motiwal said, the SDF, which was established in April 2010 by the leaders of the SAARC, has finalised as many as 12 projects in diverse fields of waste to energy, trade infrastructure, women empowerment and water conservation and management with a funding of USD 74 million of which
USD 47 million have been disbursed. He said the SDF is now working on building partnership with multilateral organisations including World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to strengthen its credit portfolio.
Mr Kant said that all over the world including the US and Europe the poverty elimination and economic growth has taken place because of intra region trade, travel and tourism. He urged tourists from SAARC region should travel within member countries.
A major SAARC member like India receives over 97.2 pc of the tourists, coming by air from abroad (other than SAARC region). 'There is no intra–regional travel at all and therefore, the multiplier impact of trade, travel tourism, investment within in the regions has not benefited the countries and that’s why the south Asian countries remain with the maximum of poverty.'
The SDF Partnership Conclave is being attended by senior officials of the multilateral institutions, business leaders and government officials from all the SAARC Member countries. The objective is to solicit cross border projects co-financing and exchange of ideas to make the SDF more dynamic in terms of project finance and implementation.

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