KATHMANDU, Aug 16: The member states of Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) are considering establishing BIMSTEC Development Fund and BIMSTEC Infrastructure Bank to implement various projects that help deepen economic cooperation and enhance connectivity through infrastructure banks among member states of this sub-regional body.
During the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Kathmandu last week to finalize the agenda items for the upcoming fourth BIMSTEC Summit, member states have agreed to discuss first with their respective governments to push forward these ideas through the Summit meeting scheduled for August 30-31.
While all member states have positively responded to Nepal’s proposal to set up BIMSTEC Development Fund, a few member states have not been able to give their opinion immediately on the idea of BIMSTEC Infrastructure Bank, according to officials present in the meeting.
The idea of BIMSTEC Development Fund was floated to help execute various projects that help in realizing the goals of BIMSTEC. These new ideas are being considered amid criticisms from various quarters that BIMSTEC has proved to be non-starter just like SAARC.
Deputy spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Ram Babu Dhakal said the member states shall discuss further on the modality and size of the BIMSTEC Development Fund. “The issues of BIMSTEC Development Fund and Infrastructure Bank shall be discussed further during the SOM meeting scheduled for August 28. Ministerial meeting and the summit to be followed by the SOM meeting is likely to take some decisions on the issues,” he further said.
BIMSTEC member states are considering strengthening BIMSTEC Secretariat and formulating charter of the sub-regional body. Currently, there are three directors to extend assistance to the BIMSTEC secretary general. There is a proposal to have one director each from seven member states that includes five from South Asia and two from East Asia in the BIMSTEC Secretariat.
Although BIMSTEC member states have agreed in principle to formulate the charter, they are yet to agree on who should be entrusted to formulate such a charter. There are proposals to assign the task to experts’ group or hold ministerial meeting for the same.
BIMSTEC member states are also considering streamlining priority areas to make it a dynamic and result-oriented organization. “We have agreed to consolidate the priority areas, putting them in various clusters,” Dhakal further said.
BIMSTEC has identified various 14 priority areas to enhance economic and technical cooperation among member states. They are trade and investment, tourism promotion, climate change, people-to-people contact, public health, poverty alleviation, fisheries, technology, agriculture, energy, environment and disaster management, tourism, counter-terrorism and transnational crimes and transport and communication.
Among other things, BIMSTEC member states are considering launching the Buddhist Circuit to enhance people-to-contact among the member states.