“Intra-regional economic integration is the backbone of the SAARC process. As envisaged by our Leaders at the Eighteenth SAARC Summit, our ultimate goal is to achieve South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union,” said Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Sial made these remarks, while addressing the Inaugural Session of the Sixth South Asia Region Public Procurement Conference on Professionalization of Public Procurement for Better Performance in Thimphu this morning.
“Public procurement is yet to become a part of formally agreed areas of regional cooperation under the auspices of SAARC. This sector, however, does have great importance for the economies of all the South Asian countries. We, therefore, highly value the convening of this Conference on Public Procurement,” said the Secretary General.
In his statement, the Secretary General said that globally, public procurement accounted for a significant amount of the total expenditure of Governments and is reportedly around 15 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “It is estimated that the South Asian countries spend around US $ 550 billion on public procurement of goods and services. Reportedly, India alone spends around 20 percent of its GDP on public procurement, which might be the highest in the world,” he stated. “Given the high volume of spending on account of public procurement in the region, it merits consideration to have a regional forum to deal with Public Procurement matters,” he said.
Affirming that a clear roadmap on grievance redressal mechanism, including dispute settlement process, can help improve efficiency in public procurement, he said, “At the regional level, we have established the SAARC Arbitration Council (SARCO) to provide a legal framework within the region for fair and efficient settlement of commercial, industrial, trade, banking, investment, and such other disputes.”
The Secretary General also briefed the participants of the Conference about the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO). SARSO was established in 2014 as a specialized body of SAARC with the aim to develop harmonized standards for the region to facilitate intra-regional trade as well as to have access in the global market.
The Conference that opened in Thimphu today was organized by the Kingdom of Bhutan in collaboration with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It will conclude on 25 April 2019.