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Poverty and Economics in South Asia: 12 Things to Know

Article | 29 November 2012

South Asia's prospects of growth depend in good part on the enhancement of cross-border connectivity and facilitation of trade among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. Here are 12 things to know about cooperation and integration in South Asia.

  1. South Asia accounts for just 2% of world trade and 1.7% of world foreign direct investment, while its intraregional trade makes up less than 6% of its total trade, making it one of the least integrated regions in the world.
    Source: ADB project. South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Trade Facilitation Program
  2. It takes 32 days on average to complete trade-related procedures in South Asia, which is among the highest in the world. Nearly 70% of the time is spent on the assembly and processing of large number of documents indicating high inefficiency at an institutional level.
    Source: Doing Business. 2011. Doing Business in a More Transparent World
  3. Improving trade facilitation systems to international standards could potentially see intraregional trade within South Asia rise by 60% and trade with the rest of the world grow by over 30%.
    Source: World Bank. 2004. Trade Facilitation and Regional Integration in South Asia: Accelerating the Gains to Trade with Capacity Building
  4. The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program is a project-based initiative to promote economic cooperation through the enhancement of cross-border connectivity and facilitation of trade among its member countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal.
    Source: SASEC website
  5. Priority areas for cooperation include transport, trade facilitation, energy, and information and communication technology.
    Source: SASEC website
  6. The Regional Cooperation Strategy (RCS) for South Asia (2011–2015) prioritizes trade facilitation, transport, and energy as areas of cooperation, and provides a clear institutional arrangement to support its implementation.
    Source: SASEC website
  7. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) serves as the SASEC Secretariat, and provides investment and technical assistance to support the planning, preparation, and implementation of priority subregional projects.
    Source: SASEC website
  8. Since 2001, 21 SASEC investment projects worth $6 billion have been approved.
    Source: SASEC website
  9. Under the RCS, ADB's support will focus on the construction and improvement of transport corridors connecting countries within the region and with countries in neighboring regions, the construction and improvement of port facilities, civil aviation infrastructure, and logistics systems.
    Source: SASEC. Transport projects
  10. ADB will support SASEC trade facilitation in customs modernization and harmonization, strengthening of logistics services and facilities, integrated cross-border management, transit agreements, and simplification of procedures for business visas.
    Source: SASEC. Trade facilitation projects
  11. The targets of ADB support in the SASEC energy sector will be improved cross-border electricity transmission connectivity, increased power trade, enhanced cooperation in energy efficiency and clean power development, and improved capacity.
    Source: SASEC. Energy projects
  12. Trade facilitation and transport officials of SASEC countries met in Thimphu, Bhutan on 8 November 2012 to review planned priority subregional projects totaling over $4 billion for the next 3 years.
    Source: SASEC website