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Greater Mekong plan to focus on economic corridors

Member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have agreed to draw up a US$50-billion (Bt1.6 trillion) pipeline of potential projects under a new Regional Investment Framework (RIF), including investments in non-traditional areas such as railways and multi-sector projects, to be made over the next decade.

"The next generation of projects will help boost cross-border trade and investments, and stimulate jobs and growth," said Stephen Groff, vice president at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which acts as secretariat for the GMS Economic Cooperation Programme.

"Completing missing transport links remain at the core of the GMS programme, but strengthening knowledge and soft infrastructure such as skills development and trade facilitation, and collectively managing regional public goods is also a priority."

The RIF was endorsed at the conclusion of the 19th Ministerial Conference of the GMS Economic Cooperation Programme, held in Vientiane. The framework encompasses sub-regional investments and technical assistance projects prepared by all GMS countries.

Since the 2012 ministerial conference, the sub-region has made substantial headway to establish the Greater Mekong Railway Association and the Regional Power Coordination Centre. Funding has been secured for the second phase of the Core Agricultural Support Programme and for the Core Environment Programme Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative.

China and Vietnam have also signed an agreement on developing cross-border economic zones. A new bridge linking Laos and Thailand has been completed, providing the last "missing link" to ensure seamless connectivity along the entire GMS North-South Economic Corridor.

The ambition of the GMS programme is to transform transport corridors into full-fledged economic corridors to boost cross-border trade and investment, and to stimulate jobs and growth. The RIF aims to accelerate this process by supporting multi-sector projects.

Along with developing urban and logistics centres, it will try to create a sub-regional power market. It also emphasises the need for investments to help member countries build resilience to climate change, to enhance agricultural competitiveness and to promote food safety and security.

Efforts will continue to extend and expand the exchange of traffic rights among countries, and to promote region-wide tourism opportunities. The pipeline of investments is projected to be more than $50 billion over the next nine years to 2022. To meet the sizeable financing requirements, member countries and their development partners will look to mobilise funds from the private sector.

GMS members are Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Yunnan province and the Guangxi autonomous region in China. The sub-region, bound together by the Mekong River, covers an area about the size of Western Europe and has a combined population larger than that of the United States.


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