South Asia is the least integrated region in the world as the trade between the countries account for less than 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region, according to World Bank Country Director for Nepal, Tasheen Szyed.
She also noted South Asia is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s absolute poor.
“But it will contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age-population over the next several decades. Our countries will add 1.2 million new entrants to the labour force every month for the next two decades,” she pointed out.
According to analysts trade barriers, political sensitivities and various other issues act as major impediments for South Asian countries to emerge as a major force in the new world order, where Asia is destined to play a greater role.
Through its regional programme in South Asia, the World Bank aims to expand cross-border, sub regional and regional economic co-operation for investment in infrastructure and institutions for cooperation, to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange.
“World Bank is trying to establish integration among South Asian countries as it makes sense economically, socially, culturally and as well as humanly,” Szyed said.
To achieve this, the areas WB is concentrating are, electricity and energy, trade facilitation, climatic changes and water resource management and sharing of regional resources.
“The lack of integration in South Asia is reflected through the dearth of direct flights, telecommunication barriers including high roaming costs etc.
As opposed to these the frontiers should be open,” Szyed stressed. “For example, Afghanistan and Nepal jointly could produce 100, 000 MW of hydropower, alleviate the crippling energy shortages which has resulted in job losses, reduce growing regional dependence on fossil fuels, and lower carbon emissions,” she further added.