SAARC Chamber demands immediate revival of visa exemption sticker scheme to promote intra trade

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Salim Ahmed

Lahore

The SAARCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an apex body in the region Wednesday demanded immediate revisit of grant of SAARC Visa Exemption Stickers Scheme (SVES) to businessmen for promotion of intra trade among member countries, to offset abject poverty, accelerate the pace of progress, development, prosperity and welfare of the people of the region.
These views were expressed by Iftikhar Ali Malik, Vice-President SAARC Chamber in his special interaction with a delegation of 15 member visiting economic journalists from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan at a local hotel here today. Liberal SAARC visa policy for businessmen, substantial reduction in sensitive list, removal of para-tariff and non-tariff measures and exhibition of greater political for swift execution of trade facilitation mechanism to ensure accelerated growth in intra-SAARC trade, he suggested.
He said that governments of South Asian countries need to adapt to the changes taking place around the globe. He identified the political mindset as one of the biggest barrier in promoting economic freedom in South Asia. He provided statistical comparison establishing that the sluggish growth of intra regional trade was because of stringent policies.
He said that the private sector was willing to improve the low level of intra-SAARC Trade provided the governments in South Asia act as true facilitators and withdraw over-regulations to ensure the free flow of goods and services and enhance mobility of the business people. He outlined the several activities undertaken by SAARC CCI and sought more interactive session between SAARC CCI and the Public Sector representatives under SAARC.
Iftikhar Ali Malik stressed that politicians of either countries must work together with dedication to implement liberal policies in the region. He said regional connectivity was essential for remodeling of policies in line with current global economic address. The efforts for promoting economic freedom in South Asian countries are scarce. The results are visible interim of higher poverty rate, poor human development index, more dependence on foreign aid, and added that SAARC needs inward looking policies to promote intra regional trends, which were more than 60 percent in the region and pre disintegration of sub continental.
Tracing the history said that under the previous visa policy, one decade ago “SAARC member countries businessmen were entitled to SAARC Sticker for five year which later was curtailed to three year and gradually reduced to two year, one year and ultimately confines to three months now with extremely cumbersome visa issuance procedure which was regarded as detrimental to business promotion in South Asia.