Take economic growth to the village: CBK tells BIMSTEC
President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday called on Asian leaders to ensure that the fruits of globalisation and regional economic cooperation reach the village and every nook and corner of Asian countries.

Addressing the BIMSTEC Summit in Bangkok, the President said they had had to be mindful of the wishes of their peoples and the overwhelming majority of people still lived in rural areas. Therefore they must ensure that the fruits of globalisation and regional economic cooperation reach the village and every nook and corner of our countries.

The President said:
"When we initiated the group in 1997, we were mindful of our mutual interests and common concerns. We were encouraged by our cultural and economic complementarities and were convinced of the potential for common action that would contribute towards peace, progress and prosperity across the region.

"We were conscious that in this interdependent and incessantly globalizing world, the economic well being of our peoples would be best attained by fostering greater understanding, good neighbourliness and practical cooperation among countries.

"Mr. Chairman, our countries are endowed with vast, precious and diverse resources; natural as well as human. The task of forging that diversity into an effective and dynamic unity now lies with us. We have now reached a landmark by signing the Framework Agreement for a free trade area. We are happy to see all member states on board.

"Our countries are located in a fast track growth region of the world today. We are all variously capable of working in tandem to synergize our creative and productive capacities in order to ensure benefits to all our peoples. It requires careful nurturing and bold initiatives. For example, joint action can be taken to broaden the rules of origin criteria applied in GSP regimes to encompass both SAARC and ASEAN regions.

"Among other measures envisaged for action by our group, we are keen to device a facility to promote business travel among our people. "Sectoral Co-operation and specific projects must continue, with greater emphasis on a new order of self-help co-operation among us, based on our economic complementarities, with a view to sharing prosperity. This could be formulated on the concept that economic and social progress must touch each country and every city, and indeed every village in our region.

"Growth without equity, where its benefits do not reach the periphery will neither be meaningful nor sustainable, as amply demonstrated by the voice of our peoples at recent elections in some of our countries.

"Promotion of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are also important as they can provide the basis for economic prosperity and social progress to the rural masses. Sri Lanka endorses the view that we must maximize our potential in biodiversity through cooperation and I am happy to note that BIMSTEC Ministers have accepted Sri Lanka's proposal to host a meeting next year, on the protection of bio-diversity and its intellectual property dimension."

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