The fifth Greater Mekong Sub-Region Summit was held in Bangkok on December 20.
Leaders of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) last week called for stronger co-operation among members and for the facilitating of the private sector to become one of key drivers of the region’s economic development.
GMS leaders urged the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) - the major lender for the region’s development - to further promote the development of the private sector in the GMS. The bank should assist in removing constraints on the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as access to finance, knowledge, and business support services, according to the joint statement released after the GMS Summit in Bangkok on December 20.
This fifth GMS Summit was attended by heads of the governments of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and ADB President Takehiko Nakao.
According to GMS leaders, the private sector should be the primary driver of the economic corridor’s development, with the public sector establishing a conducive policy and regulatory environment, providing basic infrastructure, utilities and services, as well as facilitating cooperation and collaboration at the local, national and sub-regional levels. “GMS governments should also ensure the success of private sector initiatives specifically aimed at improving sub-regional competitiveness, such as the GMS Freight Transport Association (FRETA) as well as the recently launched Mekong Business Initiative,” the joint statement said.
The Summit approved a plan for the implementation of the Regional Investment Framework (RIF) in the 2014-2018 period, an MOU on the establishment of the Regional Power Coordination Center (RPCC), an MOU on the establishment of the Greater Mekong Railway Association (GMRA), and an assessment report on the regional transport strategy for 2006-2015.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang committed to granting $5 billion to the GMS next year, mainly for poverty reduction. China also pledged to offer $1 billion for connectivity projects, $10 billion for the ASEAN Development Fund, and $11 billion for 26 sub-region projects.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung suggested that the GMS needed to ensure the balance of economic, human and environmental matters in its future cooperation by accelerating programs and projects on environmental and human development, supporting green growth, and the sharing of experience in urban and rural water management.
PM Dung also underlined the importance of joint efforts in protecting and using Mekong River water resources in a sustainable manner so that the river can play a role in cementing the friendship and cooperation among member countries.
Established in 1992 under an initiative by ADB, the GMS cooperation program consists of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. The program’s long-term goal is creating favorable conditions for promoting mutually beneficial economic cooperation among regional countries, towards turning the GMS into a prosperous growth region in Southeast Asia.
By June 2014, the GMS had carried out 75 investment projects totaling $16 billion, including those relating to the development of transport systems, hydropower, and tourism infrastructure, contributing to socio-economic development and poverty reduction in the sub-region.
Vietnam has actively participated in GMS cooperation since the group was established. By June 2014 the country had joined many GMS-funded projects in transport, electricity, healthcare, the environment, tourism, agriculture, and urban development, as well as around 130 technical assistance projects within the GMS framework. The next GMS Summit will be held in Vietnam in 2017.