Economic Corridors Development: Measure of Success of the GMS Program

VIENTIANE, LAO PDR - Progress in developing the economic corridors in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will be a key indicator of the success of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program, delegates at today's Third Economic Corridors Forum meeting heard.

Ministers and senior officials from Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (PRC), Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, together with representatives from the private sector and development partners attended the meeting. On the agenda was how to further sustain and strengthen the development of the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), and the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC). The forum also discussed how to enhance support and advance the strategies and action plans (SAPs) prepared for EWEC, NSEC and SEC, which provide the road map for economic corridor development.

Under the GMS Program, Mekong countries have agreed to create economic corridors linking various parts of the subregion to major markets with certain places serving as centers for production, trade and enterprise development. These corridors extend the benefits of improved transport links to remote and landlocked parts of the GMS with more prosperous and better located neighboring areas. Opportunities for investment from within and outside the subregion will be opened in the corridors, promoting synergy and enhancing the impact of GMS activities.

"The GMS corridors not only have the potential to serve as models for other regional cooperation initiatives elsewhere; they are also already emerging as building blocks of regional connectivity and integration in Southeast Asia," said Bindu Lohani, Vice President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The three corridor SAPs have common priorities which include: strengthening physical infrastructure; streamlining cross-border transactions and transportation costs; improving the business environment; addressing social and environmental concerns; and improving coordination between public and private sectors, central and local officials and among government agencies.

"It is necessary to ensure that GMS economic corridor development is balanced and sustainable, with the less developed areas along the corridors receiving commensurate social and economic benefits. Through this we hope to see the evolution of "green" and not "brown" economic corridors. Growth of green and competitive cities along the economic corridors will be at the heart of this development", said H.E. Madame Khempheng Pholsena, Minister to the Government's Office, Lao PDR.

GMS Ministers have asked ADB to support the countries with the following: develop master plans for corridor development; organize symposia and working groups for cooperation; provide technical assistance for feasibility and engineering studies; identify regulatory arrangements and private-public partnership; and mobilize funds through direct coordination with development partners and the private sector. GMS Ministers acknowledged the need to harmonize transport and trade facilitation formalities in the context of the cross-border transport agreement implementation.

Themed "Strengthening Pathways for Sustained Progress in the GMS", the forum, hosted by the Government of Lao PDR and organized by ADB, to chart future action in infrastructure, logistics, transport and trade facilitation, agriculture, industry, and tourism.

Drawing on results from earlier symposia, the forum agreed on actions on specific issues common to the three corridors such as: impediments and measures to enhance transport and trade facilitation: logistics development and cross-border economic links; the lack of operational connection along certain routes; and lack of border crossing facilities. The forum also considered proposed monitoring systems for transport and trade facilitation along the corridors, and consider ways to enhance multi-sector coordination.

The meeting acknowledged with gratitude the effective support extended by ADB to the GMS Economic Cooperation Program.