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
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
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
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.