Greater Mekong Ministers, ADB Plan Next Generation of Development Activities

Photo Essay: GMS Program: Milestones in Transcending Boundaries for 20 Years

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The next phase of Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) investments should expand the program into new areas such as multisector investments towards urban development, connecting remote areas with growth centers, and extending existing corridors into Myanmar, ministers attending the 18th GMS Ministerial Conference in Nanning, People’s Republic of China (PRC) said today in a joint statement.

“The (new GMS) Strategic Framework has to be translated into a plan of action. It has to be supported by a well considered investment program,” said Stephen Groff, Vice President of Operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which acts as Secretariat for the GMS Program.

The two-day conference brought together officials from Cambodia, PRC, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam to take stock of past achievements and establish future priorities for investment, in line with recommendations emerging from work on formulation of the Regional Investment Framework (RIF), which was initiated following the December 2011 Fourth GMS Summit. The conference was also joined by Development Partners such as Australia, Japan, US, International Organization for Migration, Mekong River Commission, and UNESCAP.

A pipeline of projects should take shape in early 2013, with a particular focus on boosting the growth potential of towns and cities with basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, transport, power and telecommunications; transport projects that will connect urban centers with outlying areas using secondary roads or rail, sea or air routes; improving cross-border procedures and promoting regional standards for food handling; enhancing efforts at protecting natural resources, and scaling up environmentally responsible practices particularly in infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. The preliminary list of projects already identified amounts to at least US$9 billion, which will increase substantially during the finalization of the RIF in first quarter of 2013. The completed RIF shall be subject to further consultations between and among GMS countries and Development Partners prior to finalization.

The ministerial joint statement also suggests future projects should support an integrated GMS energy sector, starting with priority transmission investments in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. Strengthening their respective national grids would serve as a building block to a regional power grid.

The meeting endorsed a number of recent initiatives, including the planned establishment of the Regional Power Coordination Center, action plans for human resources development and HIV reduction, the extension of the agriculture support program, and the decision to create a Greater Mekong Railway Association as a first step to boost cross border rail connectivity. The GMS Environment Atlas was also launched at the meeting, signaling the subregion’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Since its inception in 1992, the GMS program has invested $15 billion in subregional roads, airports and railways, telecommunications, energy, urban development, tourism, environmental protection and the prevention of communicable diseases. Per capita income has risen tenfold or more in some countries, while poverty incidence has dropped by a third or more.