Honourable Finance Ministers from SAARC countries,
My Cabinet Colleagues,
His Excellency SAARC Secretary General,
Friends from Media
Ladies and Gentlemen:
- I am delighted to address the Seventh SAARC Finance Ministers Meeting in Kathmandu. As current Chair of SAARC, it gives me added pleasure to see that all member states are represented in this important meeting. I extend a very warm welcome to all of you in Kathmandu.
- Nepal, as the Chair, has been working closely with all SAARC member states for the implementation of the decisions contained in the Kathmandu Declaration 2014.
- South Asia is a region of vast opportunities endowed with both human and natural resources. It is no pleasure to state that South Asia continues to be equated with poverty, illiteracy, instability and backwardness amidst the abundance of the resources. I cannot convince myself why South Asia should still remain on the bottom rung of the development ladder. Our collective political will and joint efforts can make a difference in changing the development landscape of this region. This demands that we act now with a sense of purpose, unity, and urgency.
- Our region is home to one fifth of the humanity and has a rich civilization. There are more commonalities that bring us closer than the factors that divide us. We must build on the positive factors and create a synergy in favor of enhanced cooperation for furthering peace, stability, and development in the region.
- The central message is that in this age of increasing interdependence and interconnectedness the cost of non-cooperation will be colossal.
- This stark reality should guide our thoughts and actions. There is a need for increased interaction, dialogue, and collaboration in the SAARC region. To transform our region into a highly integrated one from its current status of the least integrated one, we need substantial cooperation and investment in connectivity and other core economic areas. Connectivity will give a real substance and add value to South Asia’s geographical contiguity, which is yet another vital enabling factor.
- Connectivity in forms of physical infrastructures, energy and knowledge connectivity can catalyze meaningful cooperation in trade, tourism, investment, finance, and energy, among others, which are the key components of a deeper integration. By creating opportunities for seamless connectivity, we can maximize gains from trade and commerce and herald a new dawn in economic security for the region.
- Close economic cooperation is essential for lasting peace and prosperity. We believe that the vision of South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) remains relevant and can be achieved in a phased manner within a reasonable period of time with an inbuilt provision for sharing benefits equitably among its participants. The least developed countries would need extra protection, resources, and concessions given their limited competitive capacity. We need to muster requisite political will to translate this vision into a reality. SAARC will need a substantial measure of coordination of macroeconomic policies and practices to deepen economic integration. I am happy to note that matters such as cooperation in financial sector, flow of financial capital and intra-regional long-term investment, currency swap arrangements, SAARC Development Fund and SAARC Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments will be discussed during this meeting.
- Deepening economic integration can give us economic and social security only if we strengthen our commitments and joint efforts and vigilance to fight against terrorism, growing extremism, trafficking in persons, drugs and arms, money laundering and other challenges like natural calamities and public health that have transnational dimensions. With honest and transparent collaboration among us, it is possible to ensure freedom from fear, freedom from want and establish an enduring peace for development.
- SAARC Finance Ministers Meeting is an important mechanism within the SAARC framework that can be effectively utilized to foster deeper economic integration in line with changing economic realities in the world. I am confident that this meeting will be able to take concrete decisions to advance the SAARC process forward in the spirit of the 18th SAARC Summit- Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity. I thank the commendable job done by the SAARC Finance Secretaries as preparation for this meeting.
- Our long-cherished goal is to improve the quality of life of our peoples in the region by engaging in meaningful economic cooperation. Cooperation should generate win-win scenario for all and help create conducive environment for job opportunities for burgeoning youth population of the region. Our region continues to loose precious social capital of the young people who are compelled to leave the country in large numbers every year in the absence of employment opportunities at home. This trend has to be reversed with a greater flow of financial capital and intra-regional long-term investment in productive sectors of our economies.
- I wish to take this opportunity to convey my sincere appreciation to all fellow SAARC Member States for their spontaneous and generous support extended to Nepal in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of April 25 and the powerful aftershocks that followed. The moment has proved once again that we South Asians are always united and care about neighbours when they are in difficulty and distress. Nepali people would always cherish those moments of solidarity and sympathy that you all demonstrated through your actions during those difficult times of our history.
- Before I conclude, I would like to say a few words on the current political situation in the country. Nepal is all set to open a new chapter in its political history by promulgating a democratic constitution through the Constituent Assembly. Nepal thanks SAARC fellow member states for their continued support to and solidarity with the people of Nepal in this vital national task. The promulgation of the constitution will bring the protracted political transition to an end and will put representative institutions and culture of democratic pluralism in place to nurture the aspirations of diverse communities in the country. We hope this will also pave the way for socio-economic transformation, which is so essential to underpin the democratic transformation and its stability. We firmly believe that a peaceful, stable, democratic, and prosperous Nepal is not only in our interests but also essential for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
- Asia-Pacific region has emerged as an engine of global growth. The world watches with interest the power and promise of South Asian potentials. In 1985, we started the journey to promote a new climate of hope and confidence in our ability. Over the years, the region has become more democratic. United in peaceful cooperation, I believe we can work to translate the liberal environment into lasting peace, stability, and building strong democratic institutions to promote trust in the region. This will create an enabling environment to move forward with strong resolve and vision to promote better economic prospects for our people, and put South Asia on the front of global affairs.
- While wishing a grand success of the Meeting and its deliberations, I would like to reiterate our total commitment to the ideals, principles and cherished goals of the Organization for equitable sharing of prosperity in South Asia. Let the SAARC spirit be rejuvenated for the betterment of humanity.
With these remarks, I now have the pleasure to declare the SAARC Finance Ministers’ meeting open.
I wish you productive deliberations and look forward to the fruitful outcome of the meeting.
I wish you all a pleasant stay in Nepal.