South Asian governments urged to ease visa restrictions
Reducing visa restrictions and non-tariff barriers, and improving customs procedures are among a host of steps South Asian countries can take to boost private sector-led growth, the Asian Development Bank said.
Cutting nonphysical barriers to trade and improving the climate for investment across borders will encourage greater private sector activity, according to a report by ADB and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
These measures will help lift growth, cut poverty and strengthen regional integration, the report on harnessing business opportunities in South Asia.
Among the steps it suggests are liberalizing a South Asia visa exemption scheme, adopting a regional motor vehicular agreement to speed up the passage of goods vehicles across borders, and streamlining procedures at land customs stations.
The report follows a conference held in New Delhi in November 2009 which looked at challenges to increased trade and investment links in the region, along with possible solutions, the ADB said in a statement.
It said South Asia's intraregional trade remains modest compared to other parts of the world, and numerous impediments prevent the private sector from taking a bigger economic role.
"While South Asia has made steady progress in cutting tariff barriers, it still needs to address non-tariff issues such as inconsistencies in regulations, and the imposition of product quotas."
The report suggested governments create a database and notification system for monitoring non-tariff barriers, improve the capacity for data collection, help companies meet product standards, and establish a disputes settlement mechanism.
The report also highlights the need for South Asia to remove barriers to intra-regional investment, and to promote cross border investments in areas such as hydropower, and other energy sector projects, which could support regional trade in energy and aid integration.
It suggests allowing foreign direct investment in excluded, or sensitive, sectors in specific cities, urges countries to conclude bilateral investment treaties and double tax avoidance treaties, and calls for a study into the establishment of an umbrella investment body for the region.
South Asian governments urged to ease visa restrictions - LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE