South Asian countries need more regional connectivity: Ishaq Dar

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday said South Asian countries need more connectivity and trade activities within the region.

“The open trading system with lower barriers cannot be rolled back. We need more connectivity and more trade within the region,” the finance minister said, while speaking as a panelist at Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 50 year celebration in Japan.

The other panelists included ADB president, Indian finance minister and Indonesian finance minister.

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On Dar’s remarks, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said his country has reservations with the pen trading system because of sovereignty issues.

However, Dar took a dig at the Indian minister and said: “With due respect to some panelists, we strongly support ‘One Belt, One Road’ as it is essential for regional connectivity.”

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“One Belt, One Road” is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s landmark programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe. China has dedicated $40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the $50 billion China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

A day earlier, the minister had hailed ADB for playing a key role in boosting economic growth in the continent. Hailing the ADB for bringing about the ‘Asian Miracle’, Dar said, “The next millennium is the Asian millennium.” The finance minister was addressing a panel during ADB’s 50th annual meeting in Yokohama, Japan.

“There is huge potential for growth in Asia,” Dar added.

“ADB needs to play a political role in identifying issues which are not universal but country specific. So, I think there is a greater need of ADB engagement in policy, reform and structure level and on guiding the members,” Dar said while speaking at the panel discussion.

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