VIENTIANE, LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC – Member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have agreed to draw up a $50 billion pipeline of potential projects under a new Regional Investment Framework (RIF), including investments in non-traditional areas like railways and multisector projects to be made over the next decade.
“The next generation projects can help boost cross border trade and investments, and stimulate jobs and growth,” said Stephen Groff, Vice President at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which acts as Secretariat for the GMS Economic Cooperation Program. “Completing missing transport links remains at the core of the GMS program, but strengthening knowledge and soft infrastructure such as skills development and trade facilitation, and collectively managing regional public goods is also a priority.”
The RIF was endorsed at the conclusion of the 19th Ministerial Conference of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program, held in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). The Framework encompasses subregional investments and technical assistance projects prepared by all GMS countries.
Since the 2012 ministerial conference, the subregion has made substantial headway to establish the Greater Mekong Railway Association and the Regional Power Coordination Center. Funding has been secured for the second phase of the Core Agricultural Support Program and for the Core Environment Program Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Viet Nam have also signed an agreement on developing cross-border economic zones. A new bridge linking Lao PDR and Thailand  has been completed, providing the last “missing link” to ensure seamless connectivity along the entire GMS North-South Economic Corridor.
The ambition of the GMS Program is to transform transport corridors into full-fledged economic corridors to boost cross-border trade and investment, and to stimulate jobs and growth. The RIF aims to accelerate this process by supporting multi-sector projects. Along with developing urban and logistics centers, it will try to create a subregional power market. It also emphasizes the need for investments to help member countries build resilience to climate change, to enhance agricultural competitiveness and to promote food safety and security.
Efforts will continue to extend and expand the exchange of traffic rights among countries, and to promote region-wide tourism opportunities. The pipeline of investments is projected to be more than $50 billion over the next nine years to 2022. To meet the sizeable financing requirements, member countries and their development partners will look to mobilize funds from the private sector.
GMS members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Yunnan province and the Guangxi autonomous region in the PRC. The subregion, bound together by the Mekong River, covers an area about the size of Western Europe and has a combined population larger than that of the United States.