SAARC to give priority to development fund


New Delhi : Finance ministers and secretaries of the eight member nations of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have decided to accord priority to a development fund that aims to support the marginalized people in the region.

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“I would urge all of you to come to an agreement on the terms of reference so that the Development Fund can be used for activities supporting the development goals of other countries,” India’s Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told the second meeting of SAARC finance ministers and secretaries here.

Talks at the two-day meet, which concluded Saturday, focused on a proposed SAARC Development Fund and collaborations among market watchdogs.

“The proposed fund has three windows: economic, social and infrastructure. I would especially commend the social window and urge that it be used for schemes, programmes and projects that are aimed at the disadvantaged and vulnerable.”

In this regard, the member states recommended three areas that can immediately be followed up for identifying projects – maternal and child health, women’s empowerment and capacity building for enhancing the quality of education.

In order to facilitate institutional cooperation to develop capital markets in the region, the meeting also suggested the harmonisation of securities market regulations and facilitation of cross-border transactions.

“The international community is fully seized of the situation where securities markets, particularly those in the emerging economies, are susceptible to the effects of cross-border financial flows and activities,” Chidambaram said.

The ministers accordingly felt the need for formal agreements among the market regulators and ministries of finance of SAARC countries and also suggested that an expert group study how the capital markets in South Asia can be deepened.

“India offered to provide relevant capacity building support for the development of stock markets in the region at the National Institute of Securities Market,” Chidambaram said in a statement at the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

He also emphasised on the need for SAARC countries to have a greater cooperation in customs and tariffs to achieve the greater goal of a barrier-free flow of trade and services.

“An economic union envisages full and complete integration of our economies for which hassle free procedures at the border is the first step,” he said and added that work must move fast towards forging a South Asian Economic Union.

“It is important that we are able to report progress in the next two years.”