Investments in natural capital crucial to sustain economic growth in GMS

NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR – Member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion face losing recent development gains unless they invest more to secure natural resource stocks, senior officials from the six countries heard at a meeting in Myanmar today.

“Every year the subregion loses 10–12% of its gross domestic product through the overexploitation of forests, land, wildlife, and fisheries as well as pollution to ecosystems. Compounded by climate change, this situation greatly threatens long-term prosperity, including food, energy and water security,” Javed Mir, Director of the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources division in the Southeast Asia Regional Department at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said in welcoming remarks.

He added that more financing for the region’s natural capital through biodiversity conservation, environmentally-friendly energy, and green agriculture is needed, but that other softer investments are also required.

Latest tools and technologies can help understand the extent and value of the region’s forest, land, and water resources, as well as the demand and pressures on this natural capital. The information must then be effectively integrated into national fiscal and investment planning systems.

Myanmar’s Union Minister of Environment, U Win Tun, called for increased collaboration between primary sectors in the GMS, saying that together they have a “crucial role in ensuring food, energy, and water security.”

The GMS is poised to grow 7.5% annually, doubling its economic output by 2020. While its economies are diversifying, projected growth will continue to be underpinned by natural resources.

Recognizing the environmental costs of rapid economic development, GMS countries have put in place sustainable development and green growth strategies in recent years. However, operationalizing them remains a major challenge.

The “Managing Natural Capital to Ensure Food, Energy, and Water Security” meeting was attended by more than 150 delegates, including senior agriculture, energy, and environment officials from the six GMS countries, as well as representatives from ADB and other major development organizations. It is a lead up event to the 4th GMS Environment Ministers Meeting to be held in February 2015, also in Nay Pyi Taw.

The event was co-organized by Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, as well as ADB’s Core Agriculture Support Program and Core Environment Program.

The GMS countries are Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.