Private sector can play a vital role in regional integration | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 10, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:19 AM, February 10, 2017

Private sector can play a vital role in regional integration

Analysts say at Asia-Pacific Business Forum in Dhaka

The private sector can play a vital role in regional integration and poverty reduction by creating jobs for the young generation, a UN official said yesterday.

“It can make profound contributions to regional integration and sustainable development,” said Shamshad Akhtar, under-secretary-general of United Nations and executive secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific or ESCAP.

Research indicates 71 percent of the businesses are already planning on how to engage with the sustainable development goals, while 41 percent will embed the SDGs into their business operations, he said. Akhtar's comments came at a session on linking business with the SDGs at the two-day Asia-Pacific Business Forum 2017 at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel.

By aligning themselves with the SDGs, the private sector stands to potentially benefit from $12 trillion worth of business opportunities globally, which could create almost 380 million jobs by 2030.

“Such partnerships must go deeper and should focus on key areas of inclusive and sustainable development that are of mutual interest, including science, technology and innovation, human resource development, infrastructure development and multi-dimensional south-south cooperation,” he added.Deeper regional integration and more investment in infrastructure are needed to create an environment for more cross-border investment, said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Wencai Zhang, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank, called for implementation of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal motor vehicle agreement at the earliest.

He also suggested developing more economic corridors inside the country, like special economic zones in Bangladesh, or along the border.

The Manila-based multilateral lender will continue its support in different projects in this region and take up more projects. “Primarily, the private sector should come forward first for implementing the projects.”

Last year, the ADB as a regional bank delivered $17.5 billion, where $14 billion was co-financed, he said.

It has extended $1.1 billion to Bangladesh and is trying to provide more funds such that the country can implement the seventh five-year plan easily, Zhang added.

Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the north-east India and West Bengal are integrated, said Gowher Rizvi, foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister.  “This sub-regional cooperation has a common desire to fight poverty, manage water resources and water problems.”

The South Asian sub-regional cooperation agreed in numerous areas to provide seamless movement, he said, adding that the government is working to upgrade the existing transport infrastructure.

Rizvi said the government can do with a helping hand from the private sector as upgrading of infrastructure needs massive investment.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed moderated the session. The forum is jointly organised by the International Chamber of Commerce and ESCAP for the first time in Bangladesh in its 13-year history.

More than 500 high-level professionals from both the public and private sectors participated in the two-day conference.

Launched in 2004, the Asia-Pacific Business Forum provides an effective annual platform for regional public-private sector dialogue on the role and needs of business in achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development.

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