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Strong Political Will Can Help SAARC To Remove Poverty, Achieve Growth In The Region

Amidst the challenges, SDF has completed six projects, with six more in the pipeline in the SAARC countries amidst a host of complex issues

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A strong political will can lead to economic growth and poverty elimination in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) regions where the intra-trade, travel and tourism should be integrated, an effort being pursued by the SAARC Development Fund through a score of economic, infrastructure and social projects in diverse fields, said NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, addressing the strategic SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Partnership Conclave on 2nd July held in New Delhi.

In his inaugural address at the two-day conclave, being held to identify and raise finance for bankable economic, infrastructure and social projects, he said: "It will be the political will, the determination and the bonding together of the SAARC countries which would enable the growth, eliminate poverty to take place. This is critical, this is important…. I think it is important that we take cross-country projects".  

The heads of Seven South Asian Countries of SAARC (Bangladeshi, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) signed the charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on December 8th, 1985. And since then many projects for trade, communication and transport have been planned and executed. While many of them got delayed and stalled due to Pakistan's cross-border sponsorship of terrorism.

SDF, which was established in April 2010 by the leaders of the SAARC, has finalised as many as 12 projects in diverse fields of waste to energy, trade infrastructure, women empowerment and water conservation and management with a funding of USD 74 million of which USD 47 million have been disbursed. He said the SDF is now working on building a partnership with multilateral organizations like World Bank, ADB and AIIB to strengthen its credit portfolio.

Amidst the challenges, SDF has completed six projects, with six more in the pipeline in the SAARC countries amidst a host of complex issues.

"Doing cross country projects is very difficult and complex job but it goes to the credit of SDF which is working on a dozen projects in the region", he said.

Dr Sunil Motiwal, CEO of SDF agreed that a strong political will in the SAARC region can make a big difference to its development and growth. But, presently SAARC is the least integrated region with only 3% of its total trade taking place among the member countries.

"The objective is to solicit cross-border projects co-financing and exchange of ideas to make the SDF more dynamic in terms of project finance and implementation", Dr Sunil concluded with optimism that SAARC cooperation will progress amidst challenges.

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