The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Programme celebrates its 20th anniversary this September, to mark the transformation of the once conflict-prone, isolated subregion into a model for economic integration, with six member countries wo
Over the past two decades, the GMS Program has focused on the 3Cs – Connectivity, Competitiveness, and Community. Connectivity is being achieved by strengthened subregional infrastructure, particularly transport corridors, power interconnection systems, and telecommunications networks. Competitiveness is being driven by measures to facilitate trade, such as cross-border transport agreements, and efforts to boost private investment, and tourism, while Community is being fostered by joint actions to address shared social and environmental concerns such as communicable diseases and protection of the subregion’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems
The result is over the past 20 years the subregion has seen its real per capita income more than triple, annual tourist arrivals more than double from 1995 to 2009, and a three times increase in foreign direct investment inflows.
Involving Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Autonomous Region), the programme in its third decade will continue to make critically important investments in infrastructure to strengthen connectivity, while also addressing “softer” issues with actions to facilitate and expand cross-border trade and investment, and address human resource development and environmental issues.
One of the challenges highlighted by Asian Development Bank, which is the programme’s secretariat, is to address the risks of global warming and climate change. Climate change adaptation and mitigation measures need to be integrated into both national and subregional development efforts.
As of end-2011, ADB’s total loans and grants to the subregion reached US$5.1 billion for 56 investment projects (worth about $15 billion). These included subregional roads, airport and railways hydropower projects for cross-border power supply, tourism infrastructure and initiatives to control and prevent communicable diseases. In addition, ADB has supported 177 technical assistance projects with a total cost of $286 million, and has played the role of honest broker in facilitating subregional dialogue and the conclusion of agreements on key issues.
“ADB support for the GMS Program has worked because it has been able to work around the programme’s institutional mechanism involving both the political and operational aspects,” said the development bank.