Opening Statement at the Fifth GMS Economic Corridors Forum (ECF-5)

Speech | 7 August 2013

Opening Statement by ADB Vice-President Stephen P. Groff on 7 August 2013 at the Fifth GMS Economic Corridors Forum (ECF-5) in Bangkok, Thailand.

His Excellency, Mr. Varathep Ratanakorn, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office and Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and GMS Minister for Thailand.

His Excellency, Kan Channmeta, Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Commerce for Cambodia.

His Excellency, Fang Aiqing, Vice Minister, Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China.

His Excellency, Akhom Tounalom, Vice Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

His Excellency, Set Aung, Deputy Minister, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

His Excellency, Nguyen The Phuong, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates of the GMS Economic Corridors Forum, ladies and gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to join you today in this Fifth GMS Economic Corridors Forum. First of all, I would like to thank our hosts, the Royal Thai Government, and especially His Excellency, Mr. Varathep Ratanakorn, for their warm hospitality and the very excellent arrangements for our meeting today.

Introduction

At ECF-4, we were presented with the key results of the initial assessments and analyses done under the Regional Investment Framework or RIF process that was started soon after the Fourth GMS Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar endorsed and adopted the new GMS Strategic Framework covering the third decade of GMS cooperation. At this ECF, we will be discussing the RIF pipeline which aims to translate the new GMS Strategic Framework into action and results.

We are given the rare chance in this important forum to review the first cut of the Regional Investment Framework pipeline, the blueprint for the GMS’ future. Needless to say, this pipeline is work-in-progress. Our views and insights will therefore play a critical role in further improving and refining this landmark guide for the new decade of GMS cooperation.

Overview of the RIF Pipeline

Let me just give you some glimpses into the general character and flavor of these pipelines.

First of all, I would like to make clear that the projects in these pipelines are not just those that ADB will be supporting, although some of them are also included in our internal programs. They cover mostly projects that the GMS countries, either individually or collegially through the various sector working groups and forums, have proposed to pursue. These latter projects are either also included in the various roadmaps that have been prepared under the working groups; or identified in the sector assessments done specifically under the RIF; or have been identified by countries or groups of countries under bilateral or multilateral arrangements among them. But the common denominator is that all these projects are deemed to have significant regional dimensions and impact. Moreover and more importantly, the countries have expressed in various instances strong ownership of these projects and are in line with the national development plans. All GMS countries are strongly represented in this new RIF pipeline.

Second, the pipeline is consistent with the spirit of the new Strategic Framework’s focus on the broadening and deepening of the GMS corridors and addressing the issues and tapping opportunities offered by emerging trends. It still contains the usual, traditional infrastructure projects that, for instance fill the remaining gaps along the transport corridors or that will enable expanded power trade. But in addition, it now also includes more novel projects such as the establishment of multi-modal and inter-modal transport links, including access to gateway ports, as well as important complementary infrastructure and services, such as various types of logistics facilities, special economic zones and industrial park. The pipeline also contains projects that aim to effectively manage the growing urbanization trend so that it can be harnessed for corridor development. These are demand driven multisector investments which will induce more private investment and create more jobs that will be the real engine of sustained regional development.

The pipeline also includes projects that address the softer aspects of regional development such as enhanced transport and trade facilitation measures; intensified skills and capacity building, for instance through enhanced technical and vocational training; further measures to control the cross-border spread of diseases; and research and database development. It also includes activities aimed at building institutions for closer cooperation and coordination in specialized areas, such as railways and power development.

The current RIF pipeline is still characterized largely by public investment projects. As subregional infrastructure investment requirements are so large, it will be important to go beyond public sector investments alone. Policy reforms and preparation of projects, which will induce public-private partnership, should be the way forward. The GMS Business Opportunities Forum, to be held tomorrow, aims to build awareness of GMS projects among private sector and development partners and create opportunities for dialogue on possible partnership in the near future.

Conclusion

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

For the RIF to be effective in sustaining the momentum of GMS development in the new, dynamic and challenging landscape the region now faces, it will have to include more complex and integrated multi-sector initiatives and interventions, which will require an appropriate institutional mechanism to monitor corridor performance. To better coordinate needed software which will complement hardware, new sector institutional mechanism such as the Regional Power Coordination Center (RPCC) will also be critical.

However, although it may sound superfluous, it is still good to remind ourselves that having a good plan is only the first step. Implementing it with everyone’s commitment and determination is the more arduous task ahead. But I am quite confident, given the GMS Program’s track record in the last two decades and the continued enthusiasm that the member countries have shown, that we will succeed in this undertaking. Measures and indicators to monitor corridors’ performance would be critical to ensure the successful design and implementation of soft and hard infrastructure investments along corridors.

We at ADB, for our part, wish to assure you of our continued commitment to the GMS Program. We take pride in being with you from the beginning, through the first decade of the more basic phases of cooperation, through the second decade of consolidating more formal programs and mechanisms, and now at the start of the third decade, helping you prepare this blueprint to support you in navigating a more complex future. We will certainly continue to be with you as you actually follow and translate this blueprint into action.

I wish all of us a constructive and fruitful meeting. Thank you.