Dr Watcharas Leelawath, executive director of the Mekong Institute last Friday said cooperation and greater connectivity among the member states are necessary to get the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) to take off.
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Speaking at the sixth Mekong Forum 2018, he said the GMS should invest in a strong technological innovation system to enhance efficiency and enable stronger competitiveness among the GMS member countries.
“Our challenge is the physical infrastructure and the legal infrastructure, road connectivity and internet connection. We want to get ideas, suggestions and recommendations on what to do to strengthen competitiveness in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
“We are trying to find ways to work with them and to address and tackle the problem of connectivity and low competitiveness in the region. This is necessary to boost strong growth and sustainability as well as enhance competitiveness to get the region to take off,” he said.
He said at the same time, it is critical to solidifying development cooperation strategies grounded on inclusiveness and oriented towards improving connectivity and fostering regional and global ties.
“We discussed with our experts from the GMS countries on how they provide support and formulate policies for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and how they intend to strengthen connectivity in the region,” he said.
Dr Watcharas said this is the way to enhance the competitiveness of the businesses in the GMS.
“We also discussed with the corporate and development partners, and with the ideas and inputs from the forum we will formulate and design our strategic programme for capacity building in terms of SMEs. As for government agencies, we want to get the ideas from them too on how to strengthen competitiveness in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
Dr Watcharas said various key inputs came from panelists from GMS countries and from development partners including Australia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the European Union (EU) which play a big role in the region.
This year’s theme of Mekong Forum is ‘Turnarounds and Takeoffs: Speeding Up Competitiveness and Connectivity in the Greater Mekong Sub-region’. The event, organized by the Mekong Institute, an intergovernmental organization working in human resource development, took place at the Avani Khon Kaen Hotel, and Convention Center, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
Zhang Guohau, vice governor of the People’s Government of Yunnan Province, said in recent years, GMS countries enjoyed rapid economic growth, however, there was the need to improve the capacity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the region.
“It is recognized that all the governments of the GMS countries paid great importance on improving national competitiveness, and have taken positive measures in this direction.
“But the GMS countries are facing some challenges such as the insufficient infrastructure, and low innovative ideas. These need to be improved.
“I believe this year’s forum will tackle the problem in the GMS countries that have to further open up to improve the quality of the economy, improve innovation, and entrepreneurship,” Mr Zhang said.
He said the six countries in the GMS are good neighbours and partners in a dynamic region.
“Our cooperation has generated fruitful results, strengthen all the countries competitiveness, contributed to peace, prosperity, and stable development in the region,” he said.
Kensuke Tanaka, Head of Asia Desk, OECD Development Center, said the challenges for the growth momentum of GMS countries are infrastructure, human capital building, energy, policy, digitalization amongst others.
“Overcoming these challenges is based on the policy implementation by each and every member states and as you know strategic policies take time,” Mr Tanaka said.
Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC, specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam are GMS members.