The ninth edition of South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) will be held in Dhaka on October 15-16 with an objective to identify and address challenges for attaining sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Organisers said the two-day summit will discuss a set of cross-cutting issues in the areas of trade, business, investment, climate change and politics to raise the volume of intraregional trade in the highly potential but untapped subcontinent. The theme of the summit is "Reimagining South Asia in 2030".
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) will host the event in association with Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) of Sri Lanka, India-based Research and Information System of Development Studies (RIS), Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Pakistan and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE).
In a pre-event press briefing at Brac Center Inn in the capital on Thursday, CPD Executive Director Prof Mustafizur Rahman said recent government-level developments in the region have hurt progress of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), leaving immense potentials in the area untapped.
"It doesn't mean that the importance of the forum comes to an end. We think here is the opportunity for Track-2 initiative beyond the government process to contribute. That's why the upcoming summit is very important."
He also said the region has a lot of potentials and the South Asian countries need to enhance their regional co-operation on connectivity, trade and investment for achieving inclusive economic development.
"If we do so, we can attain targets of SDGs thus convert the area into a region free from poverty and inequality," he added.
When asked whether SAARC will be neutralised with more focus on other forums, he said it is the world of variable geometrics where regional, sub-regional and cross-regional co-operation is equally important.
CPD Research Director and convener of the summit preparatory committee Dr Fahmida Khatun said South Asia has been the second fastest developing region after East Asia and the area's economic growth is forecast to gradually accelerate from 7.1 per cent in 2016 to 7.3 per cent in 2017.
She said South Asia generated about 8.7 per cent of the global GDP (gross domestic product) in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2015 while one-fifth of the world population reside there.
"Intraregional trade within the South Asia is only 5.0 per cent which is not up to the mark. Political leaders in the area need to focus on leaving all kinds of conflicts behind," she added.
Responding to a query, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, CPD Additional Research Director, said importance of SAARC will not be diminished by engaging in another regional forum like BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
"One platform can facilitate another. So, it should not be considered an alternative," he said.