Islamabad—Minister for Finance, Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Friday, was elected as new Chairman of 8th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) finance ministers’ meeting here.
A day earlier, the Saarc Finance Secretaries elected Secretary Finance Dr. Waqar Massoud Khan as the new Chairman of the Saarc Finance Secretaries meeting.
Secretary General Saarc Secretariat Arjun Bahadur Thapa congratulated Ishaq Dar for becoming Chairman of the Saarc Finance Ministers’ meeting and expressed best wishes for him.
After his election, he expressed his gratitude for electing him as the Chairman of the 8th meeting of the Saarc Finance Ministers and said that since its inception, Saarc had made considerable progress in the areas related to economic and social sectors for the uplift of the South Asian region’s nations.
He hoped that the dream of establishing South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) would be materialized soon to ensure regional development and pull the people of the region out from poverty and hunger.
A range of mechanisms have supplemented the overall cooperation in economic and financial sectors among the Member States to achieve SAEU in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.
The minister said that the unfinished agenda that included, the Saarc Limited Multilateral Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, Saarc Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment, Harmonization of Customs Procedures and Documentation, establishment of Saarc Development Bank.
This proposal will allow greater flow of financial capital and intra-regional long-term investment and recommendations of Saarc-ADB Study on Regional Economic Integration (Phase-II), has been delaying the process of intra-regional and inter-regional integration of the South Asian region.
All these subjects need special attention of this forum to move ahead in consonance with the global economic and financial architecture. A special focus would be on moving from South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) to South Asian Economic Union (SAEU), he said.
He also stressed on customs-related trade facilitation measures, finalizing the draft on Saarc Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment, implementation of Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS), Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and Transactions in Local Currencies.
Earlier in his welcome address, Finance Minister observed that the South Asia was a region with countless opportunities and vast potential to meet the growth requirements of its peoples.
The assets of the region, among others, include vast fertile lands, deep seas, large mountain ranges, high peaks and a huge youth bulge. The region needs joint strategies and convergence of commonalities among the Saarc Member States to exploit its resources for the economic and social uplift of our peoples.
“There is a need for a focused attention on shared goals by the national governments to realize the dream of the South Asian Economic Union. The individual efforts by the Saarc member states at national level, we believe, will complement the overall target of the South Asian Economic Union” he proposed.
He said that the summits had been directing early implementation of projects, programmes and activities in a prioritized, result-oriented and time-bound manner, for regional integration.
For this purpose, several mechanisms have been established to deepen the economic integration of the region and we are, now, moving from South Asian Free Trade Area to South Asian Economic Union.