India to engage more with East, Southeast Asia

Greater Noida, May 4 (IANS) India Saturday pitched for greater economic cooperation and said it is committed to deeper engagement with countries of East and Southeast Asia.

“I strongly feel that the time has come for greater cohesion among our economies for building a more empowered, stable and secure world,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the inaugural session of the 46th Annual General Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) here on the outskirts of the Indian capital.

After centuries of stagnation and deprivation, Asia is once again regaining its primacy in the global economy, he said, and if the potential of its economies is harnessed through appropriate policies and a strategic vision, Asia will certainly play a far greater role in world affairs.

In 2013, the International Monetary Fund expects Asia to grow more than five times faster than the advanced developed economies at 7.1 percent and play a crucial role in driving and stabilizing the global recovery process.

The prime minister said regional cooperation and integration among countries in Asia and the Pacific could play a critical role in accelerating the process of economic growth, reducing poverty and economic disparities.

He stressed the importance of building cross-border infrastructure, eliminating trade and investment barriers and cooperation, including transfer of technology, in regional public goods such as clean air and energy, energy efficiency, management of water resources, control of communicable diseases, and management of natural disasters.

“We believe that promoting regional cooperation is the key mandate of the agreement that created the ADB,” he said and asked the region’s major development bank to play a pivotal role in this.

The prime minister also made a case for stepping up financial resources of ADB to help promote infrastructure and poverty alleviation programmes.

“We now need to substantially expand the resource base of multilateral development banks so that they have the firepower to help developing countries reach their growth potential.”

He said ADB should take the initiative to find innovative ways to channelise global savings into infrastructure projects in Asia-Pacific. The ADB’s good rating and technical expertise could be leveraged to raise resources in domestic and international markets through appropriate instruments.

“Pooling investments across various countries can mitigate risk which can be further reduced through credit enhancement by the ADB. Moreover, expanding infrastructure financing and investment through the intermediation of the ADB could help lower the cost of financing long-term infrastructure projects,” suggested the prime minister.

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