SAARC, as a regional body, was
set up in 1985. Subsequently, many regional bodies e.g. NAFTA (North American Federation
of Free Trading Area: a consortium of USA, Canada and Mexico) were set up and registered
great strides. However, SAARC has yet to rise to the occasion. Its population is around
20% of the world but its share of exports in global exports is 0.89% based on the
World Development Report 1998-99. Several other economic and social indicators of GNP, per
capita income, literacy rates etc are also on the lower side. There is a vast scope for
ensuring a flourish, growth and development in SAARC region.
The following piece reviews founding principles, objectives, progress
achieved so far and unique features of SAARC.
Clear cut principles have been spelled out and these require firm
commitment by all the SAARC countries. It has been laid down that the cooperation among
SAARC countries shall not be substitute for bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation but
shall complement the same. Moreover, such cooperation shall not be inconsistent with
bilateral and multi-lateral obligation. Principles on which cooperation shall be based
include the following:
1) Sovereign Equality
2) Territorial Integrity
3) Political Independence
4) Non-interference in international affairs of other states and mutual
SAARC objectives include promotion of socio-economic developments
within SAARC countries and also develop a productive relationship with regional and
international organizations. The objectives are categorized as under:
i) To promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve
their quality of life.
ii) To accelerate economic growth.
iii) To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the
economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
iv) To promote and strengthen collective self reliance among the
countries of South Asia.
v) To contribute to mutual interest, understanding and appreciation of
one another's problems
i) To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums
and with other developing countries.
ii) To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries
iii) To cooperate with international and regional organizations.
So far ten areas of work within SAARC region have been identified and
allocated to various SAARC countries as per following details:
Information & Data Networking, Human (4 assignments) Resource Development, Science
& Technology and Social Dimensions of Business Development
*Pakistan Trade and Investment
* Sri Lanka Women Entrepreneurship
*Nepal Travel & Tourism
*Nepal & Bhutan Energy
Inter-SAARC trade is very
small. Pakistan's export share of SAARC is only 3%.
SAPTA (South Asian Preferential Trading Area) has been in operation and
SAFTA (South Asia Free Trading Area) will start operating in 2001. There is a dream of
Economic Union by 2008.
SAARC has unique features, which are very prominent and are of
significant importance. These speak volumes for bright and rich future for the region. It
is the largest geo-economic block of the world. Its population is 1.2 billion. Its
combined average of GDP growth is over 7%. Its consumer base is over 425 million people in
the middle class bracket. Its potential of contributing a great deal to the ever evolving
global economy is tremendous. It has one of the most ancient living civilizations in the
It is a sleeping giant but has started moving. It has two Atomic
Countries (India and Pakistan). All religions, faiths and ideologies live together. It is
poised to become an important economic force through SAPTA and SAFTA. It is the largest
English speaking area of the world. It has the largest irrigated network in the world. It
has second largest railway network after USA, in the world. It has the largest number of
consumers in a single economic block of the world. By the end of 2000, consumer base will
surpass 750 million.
In the light of above, it is apparent that SAARC has a tremendous
potential. While political problems may be tackled by politicians, economic cooperation
and integration ought to be on high priority agenda to usher in an era of prosperity of
the teeming millions. Let us rise to occasion and deliver the goods.
The writer is President, Institute of Cost and Management Accountants
of Pakistan Member Governing Council, International Federation of Accountants.
Dean: Executive programs, Punjab College of Business Administration,
Constituent College of Mohammad Ali Jinnah University.