Business conclave for more regional cooperation
The 4th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave ( SBLC) was organized in Kathmandu, Nepal. Aimed at promoting trade and business activities among the member countries, the conclave was organized by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry in-collaboration with Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( FNCCI) and Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. Business leaders of South Asia. It was attended by prominent economists and policy-makers from across the world. A delegation comprising about 80 top Pakistani businessmen also attended the moot.
The first conclave of its kind to be held in Nepal, the 4th SBLC carried the theme of “ Peace and Prosperity through Regional Connectivity” to address the improvement of the living standards of the people and alleviate poverty from the region.
The three-day event focused on the challenges to the integration of South Asian countries, most importantly the thinnest commercial bonds among the countries of South Asia than any other region. As stated by Sartaj Aziz, Former Finance and Foreign Minister of Pakistan, “ The political leaders of South Asia need to take bold initiatives and exhibit great political will if they want meaning economic integration of SAARC and foster the regional cooperation mechanism.”
S. M. Muneer, President Indo-Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said, “ South Asia has poor connectivity in every sector. We have poor transport network to support trade and commerce when compared to other regions. Without honest involvement of all countries intraregional connectivity could not be build.” He urged South Asian governments to oversee political differences to build better trade and investment relationship. India is a major trade partner of South Asian countries, so India should lead toward it, he said.
Annisul Huq, President SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( SAARC-CCI) also stressed on the greater connectivity and mobility of people within SAARC region for the regional prosperity. Terming food and energy crisis as the major challenges to the economic development, Huq suggested that regional prosperity could be attained through proper utilization of existing natural resources through collective effort of business community and the governments of the region.
Senior advisor of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mohamad Daood Moosa said that mistrust among South Asian countries is the root cause of low commercial dependence among them. Our intraregional trade is just 5.8 percent of total trade and almost three times more to East Asian countries, so we need to revise our trade mindset today.
Indian delegate, Mahesh K Saharia focused on the private sector to unite and lobby for intraregional benefit that will benefit all. “ If we all unite and lobby for regional trade and investment we can convince political leaders on it,” he conveyed.
SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneur Council ( SCWEC) also held a working session under the theme ‘ Women Leadership for Regional Business Opportunities’ at the fourth SAARC Business Leaders Conclave. The Chairperson SCWEC, Pramila Acharya Rijal asserted, “ This is an initiative to promote stronger cooperation between the businesswomen in the region and the potential for increasing trade between SAARC member nations, the challenges therein and the opportunities for businesswomen within the region.” The discussions included identification of broad opportunities for businesswomen in the region and showed the way forward for specific sectors.
The concluding remarks were given by Tariq Sayeed, who highlighted the nonresolution of political issues as the biggest hurdle in the way of the integration process already being led by the private sector in South Asia. The sector is involved in promoting economic cooperation in the region and demands of the Governments to provide a business-enabling environment to foster the pace of economic cooperation