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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Burma deal should boost Greater Mekong economy

Burma deal should boost Greater Mekong economy

burma.jpg
burma.jpg

A ministerial conference to improve economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion

(GMS) was held November 27-29 in Burma. At the "milestone" meeting the

six member group agreed to increase regional economic cooperation in a mutually beneficial

manner.

MEKONG BRIDGED: Cambodia's first bridge over the Mekong, at Kampong Cham, was opened December 4 by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The 1.4 kilometer Japanese-funded structure cost $56 million to build.

Four GMS nations - Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos - also signed an agreement

to ease the flow of people and goods across their borders. All six GMS nations have

committed themselves to a more open exchange of goods and people by 2005.

Cham Prasidh, Minister of Commerce and the minister in charge of the GMS program,

noted that the agreement was a useful complement to Asean free trade and said it

should help promote free trade between Asean and China. He said members needed to

accelerate economic cooperation in view of the difficult world economic situation

and increasing problems attracting investment.

"I think the link between Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand will facilitate

the traffic of goods crossing the border for all the people once the agreement has

been put into practice," said Prasidh. That, he explained, should take no more

than a month.

"Now we will go into full implementation of the details in the strategic framework,"

said Sok Chenda, Cambodia's national coordinator for the GMS.

China and Burma make up the remaining two countries that share the Mekong. The

economic agreement is the fruit of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) ten year strategy

to boost economic cooperation. Urooj Malik, resident representative of the ADB, told

the Post December 5 that the ADB had allocated about $300 million over the next three

years starting 2002 to implement economic cooperation.

"This is in addition to the national program," said Malik. "It is

vital for Cambodia for its process of reintegration into the regional economy and

it will bring many benefits to Cambodia through economic growth, flow of goods and

people across different countries. It will ultimately impact on poverty reduction

in Cambodia."

Before attending the meeting Malik told reporters that the ADB's country program

dealt with national roads and power projects. He said that ADB's policy was to operate

on a long-term framework to help develop economic cooperation among the six countries.

The GMS members also approved a comprehensive plan for the first three years that

will involve partnership between the ADB and the private sector in a bid to raise

$930 million needed for priority projects and technical assistance.

Among the improvements the GMS members would like to see are better infrastructure

links between countries to help trade, a regional power interconnection, development

of human resources, improved tourism and protection of the environment and natural

resources.

Cambodia has also expressed keen interest in an ADB project to link the northeast

to a proposed East-West Corridor involving Laos and Vietnam. That is scheduled to

be finished by the middle of 2004.

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