International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICCB) Conference held in Dhaka recently called on Asian countries to strengthen political and economic cooperation, regional integration, good governance and robust fiscal steps to ensure speedy socio-economic transformation. Asian lead in economic growth has to be further consolidated by pragmatic policy, dynamic action, faster growth and resilience necessary for global recovery and sustainable development across the world.
'Asia leads the global growth' claimed by top experts from varied economic and commercial fronts who stressed on institutional reforms, controlling bureaucratic bottlenecks and step forward for developing an integrated global strategy for sustaining the world growth momentum. The ICCB conference dealt wide range of subjects relating to Asian and global growth and recovery in one plenary session and three business sessions attended by 450 participants and 40 speakers from 10 countries.
Arranged in association with leading chambers and associations of Bangladesh, ICCB, Dhaka conference titled 'Global Economic Recovery: Asian Perspective' expressed firm determination to contribute to global recovery. The leading participants covering broad range of policymakers, practitioners in trade, commerce and industries, local and foreign entrepreneurs, economists, business analysts, members of civil society, ministers, representatives of UN and other global bodies from across Asia attended the conference.
The conference recommended wide-ranging strategy for strengthening overall growth initiative through fiscal consolidation, supportive monetary policy and relevant policy support and intervention to implement the mission, vision and prophecy.
In a post conference press briefing Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICCB detailed the bullet points of the conference discussion recommendations said firm determination, dynamic policy adaption and rapid follow up will help Asian economies to address global risks with a view to emerging as the source of global economic dynamism. The world awaits Asian strategy and collaboration for global recovery as such visionary steps can help Asia to rise to the occasion to enjoy the credit of making 21st century Asian one, he envisioned.
China, Japan and India have played the key role in overcoming the western economic downturn by their steady growth. Thus Asian economies will have to consolidate the lead with proper resilience to strengthen integrated global strategy for sustaining the projected world growth momentum, leaders said in the press briefing.
ICCB President underlined the main focus of the conference with a glimmer of hope of meeting the global expectation with new policy direction to ensure higher Asian growth for sustainable development across the world.
UNCTAD Secretary General said, "A sustainable boundary should be drawn between the objectives of business and aspiration of people hence social inclusion is critical for long term survival of business".
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her message called for wide-ranging investment, generation of employment, removal of income disparity for socio-economic transformation. The successive bumper crop harvests, strong manufacturing growth, continued recovery and robust growth in the service sector has opened a new era of growth in Bangladesh, she outlined.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Asian region's success based on a macroeconomic framework has created financial ability and resilience in Asia's growth. The continent has to maintain environmentally sustainable growth for strengthening its role in global risk management, he hoped.
Minister for Finance Abul Maal A Muhith focused on how Bangladesh maintained high growth adopting export promotion accompanied by investment to priority areas, expansion of social sectors and infrastructural development especially in energy and transportation sector.
Minister for Commerce Tofail Ahmed, chairing the Plenary Session on 'Global Economic Recovery: Contemporary Realities' stressed on duty-and quota-free access. He said many nations are unable to exploit the benefit due to non-tariff barriers. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh had done miracles in the last four decades. Ridding itself of the ignominious tag 'bottomless basket', Bangladesh has become a classic example of development and praised the businesses and industries for being the driving force in the country's success story.
Dr Pwint San, deputy minister for commerce of Myanmar was critical about South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) saying this organization is still hostage to a long sensitive list, non-and para-tariff barriers and connectivity issues
Sunil Bahadur Thapa, minister for commerce of Nepal, said "South Asia should adopt such policies which could provide better connectivity, widen job markets, empowering people for creating a strong Asia
Kyle Kelhofer, country manager of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) informed private sector financing arm of the World Bank Group has bestowed upon more and more economic responsibilities to private sector in Asian region for over the last 20 years, but there had been absence of coordination among government, private sector and other stakeholders.
Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development detailed the parameters and priorities to galvanize the growth prospects in terms of realities and challenges.
Johannes Zutt, Bangladesh country director of the World Bank, said that the South Asian countries needed more investment in order to maintain decent growth.
ICC Secretary General John Danilovich said trade is the lifeline of the global economy and vital to the global economic recovery to bring down barriers in international trade and investment.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman said Asia's intraregional exports can and need to grow faster, not just in primary or intermediate inputs but also in finished consumer and capital goods.
On the last day of the conference, participants comprising trade experts, economists and policy makers were engaged in three separate business sessions at Sonargaon Hotel, and discussed key issues relating to global economic recovery, challenges for Asia and the WTO's Bali outcome. Global business leaders called for inclusive growth recovery as the traditional approach taken so far has largely failed to benefit the poor and cut disparity in the last few decades.
The three business sessions on: (1) Asian Growth: Realities and Challenges, (2) Trade: Does the Bali outcome hold promise for the future? (3) Promoting Investment in Asia.
Chaired by Dr A B Mirza Azizul Islam, Former Adviser to the Caretaker Government the business session one on Asian Growth: Realities and Challenges comprehensively discussed on political conflicts, which have already been badly shaken Asian growth. The trade experts and economists, to take the region a leap forward, emphasised on economic integration and massive investment in developing infrastructure and also on human resources.
Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICCB in post-conference press briefing presented the consolidated statement released to pressmen outlined that Asian growth has to be driven by regional growth, political cooperation among the states. It said global financial crisis and recession of 2008-09 pushed the world economy to a slower growth trajectory. The pace of recovery remained tentative, facing formidable structural impediments, financial uncertainties and inter-regional imbalances aggravated the problems in many ways.
Leaders stressed appropriate policies for big pushing up growth acceleration, reduction of concurrent poverty accompanied by regional cooperation, financial-sector development, improved governance, inclusive politics, climate change, environment, air and water quality, food security should be the priorities for South Asian region.
The new transformative growth paradigm marking sustainable development has ushered in new horizon for Bangladesh's development efforts. The business leaders and academics shared their ideas from the same platform, this is the success of the conference, ICCB president concluded.
The salient features marked the briefing includes: (1) to insulate from external vulnerabilities to their economies, (2) create the foundation for sustainable gainful employment, (3) reduce domestic and regional inequalities, (4) address geopolitical uncertainties in collaboration with neighbouring countries, (5) lay the foundation as the driver of the global recovery for utilizing opportunities, (6) government and central banks in Asia should promote development of regional bond market in order to keep the regional savings in real sector investment as financial sector was under stress in some Asian countries, (7) tariff and non-tariff barriers hamper the trade integration in South Asia and suggested that formation of a South Asian custom union would solve the problem, (8) consumption expansion in China and India and the better relation of two giants is very critical in shaping Asian development agenda."If India and China see eye to eye, trade in Asia will reach new heights in the 21st century"
To conclude we need to focus that our policy makers at the highest echelon of the government should take into account the main focus and vision explored in the ICCB conference. The essence of the deliberations and recommendation, many a way be the panacea to ensure wide-ranging growth of country's economy. But the focal point of all attempts has to be marked by socio-economic transformation and reduction of income inequality in the best interest of the citizenry.r
The writer has served in banks, a few ministries of the government and in universities. He is currently a senior journalist at The Daily Observer and may be reached at [email protected]