Trade within South Asia could be a catalyst for peace which can enhance bilateral relations

Islamabad, December 12, 2012 (PPI-OT): Trade within South Asia could be a catalyst for peace which can enhance bilateral relations, increase economic growth and reduce poverty in the region, said Khurram Dastgir Khan, MNA PMLN and while speaking at the 2nd day of 15th Annual Sustainable Development Conference (SDC), organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.

The three-day conference titled “Sustainable Development in South Asia: Shaping the Future” is looking at future of sustainable development in South Asia. Delegates from South Asian countries as well as from 15 other countries around the world are participating in the conference.

Khurram Dastgir Khan was speaking at the session on “Non-Tariff Barriers in Indo-Pak trade” and elaborated upon how the trade between India and Pakistan presents immense gains for consumers and how trade could be used as a catalyst for solving other issues such as political disputes.

However, Dastgir made it clear that important issues should also be brought to the table while negotiating on trade relations, such as the issue of India’s heavily subsidized sector and possibility of India granting a sovereign guarantee to Pakistani investors while investing in the Indian market. Earlier, Saad Rajput from SDPI presented his talk which touched upon the issues of Indian quality standards, non-transparent custom valuation of goods, complex tariff structures and the lack of infrastructural and transport protocols.

Ali Khizar from Business Recorder mentioned how the China-Taiwan and China-Japan example should be followed, in which trade paved the way for solving political issues. Muhammad Adnan from SDPI mentioned the set of proposals drafted by Asian Development Bank and the SAARC chamber of commerce and industry.

He identified that the main problem of businessmen on both sides was the absence of proper infrastructure. Dr. Sohail Safdar, DG Trade and Policy identified South Asian region as a homogenous region. Dr. Pervez Tahir, former chief economist said that Pakistan and India are two very different economies, and this fact needs to be realized before formulating trade policies between the two countries.

The session on “Role of public infrastructure in reshaping Asia’s future” discussed the importance of infrastructure in initiating economic growth. Dr. Vaqar Ahmed from SDPI underlined the need for state-market relationship, as continuously evolved by China and India. Dr. Yumei Zhang, from Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences expressed that over the period of last 30 years, infrastructures in China have significantly improved which contributed to the fastest economic growth rate of 10%. Dr. Nadia Tahir expressed that privatization is not the solution to improve railways in Pakistan. She said that Indian railway is technically efficient by using marketing strategy of capacity utilization, reduction in unit costs, and improvement in service quality. Citing Chinese and Indian [WINDOWS-1252?]Railways she said, “The lesson drawn for Pakistan is that technical efficiency leads to other efficiencies and railway can be sustained by steady public investment and autonomous and professional management”. Naveed Iftikhar from Ministry of Finance informed that government has developed a railway revitalization strategy.

The session on “Promoting Sustainable Enterprises in South Asia”, analyzed the role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in sustainability of enterprises across South Asia. Anam Khan from SDPI informed participants that SDPI is representing Pakistan in SANSAR network which aims to improve both supply and value chains within enterprises and promote CSR activities across South Asia. Pramod John from India expressed that inclusion of CSR activities within the enterprises will not only increase their yield, as was the case in Sugar Industry in India, but also promote sustainable development. He further added that now a debate is going in India to make it mandatory for companies to invest 2% of their profit in CSR activities. Mochan Bhattarai from (ECCA) Nepal elaborated that political instability in Nepal, like many other South Asian countries, is the biggest challenge while undertaking CSR initiatives. The chair in the end concluded the session with the view that there is a need to create awareness among the masses about strategic CSR in order to have desired results.

During the session on “social and livelihood implications of conflict situation” Stephen Commins from USA said that violent conflicts disrupt livelihood and markets, and this makes the people vulnerable to hunger and malnourishment. Governments and the donor need to focus on restoring markets, establishment of infrastructure, and revival of supply chain and market mechanism.

Qasim Shah of SDPI, expressed that government and donors should focus on markets through which the livelihood issues can be resolved. Dr. Bishnu Upreti from (NCCR) Nepal, stressed on enhancing investment and developing local ownership in the livelihood sector.

Dr. Babar Shahbaz, from University of Agriculture, cited his research work in KP and said that high food prices, low crop productivity and malfunctioning of social safety nets is a common concern for deteriorated livelihood conditions in the province. Mr. Geoff Woods of Bath University UK, commented on dire need to attach security perspective to the development work.

At the session on “social movements for empowerment of poor” Karamat Ali, from PILER discussed that marginalized people in Pakistan can be empowerment through a healthy political process and transformation of institutional structure. Prof Geof wood of Bath University UK said “There is a need for continual reform structure in favor of equitable distribution of resources. Along with this, there is a need to also strengthen the market structure”.

Awanish Kumar from India explained that in some places, the marginalized people even do not have the right to change their profession. Due to this inclusive exploitation, people are deprived from community resources. Dr. Urs Geiser, Senior Researcher from Switzerland believed that the social movement can be addressed in a better way by a collective effort from potential stake holders in society e.g. the government, nongovernment organizations, donors, and the leaders from marginalized groups.

For more information, contact:
Faisal Nadeem Gorchani
Coordinator, Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3 Islamabad, Pakistan
Postal Code: 44000
Tel: +92-51-2278134, (Ext: 113)
Fax: +92-51-2278135
Cell: 00-92-333-559 2210

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