| Azaraimy HH |
MINISTERS from the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) have agreed to vigorously explore socio-cultural and education, one of the strategic pillars in the Asean sub-regional grouping’s cooperation.
In recognising the important role of education in contributing to the establishment of an Asean Community that is people-centred and socially responsible, the ministers have also agreed to explore and promote cooperation among higher learning institutions in developing academic and professional human resource in the sub-region.
Speaking at the 18th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting press conference yesterday, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, said this idea, which was mooted by one of the BIMP-EAGA member countries, is in line with what Asean is doing to realise an Asean Community.
According to Pehin Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, such a move puts great emphasis on the human aspect of the grouping and demonstrates how BIMP-EAGA can look into cooperation that involves the youth.
On the progress made on the BIMP-EAGA private and public sector partnership, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng noted that most of the challenges faced by the private sector are related to connectivity, which among other things, include issues pertaining to land transportation, shipping, air linkages, as well as cross border issues such as permits.
“Some of these issues that were brought up by the private sector from BIMP-EAGA were successfully addressed by the relevant ministers,” said Pehin Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, adding that other issues would be looked at by senior officers.
At the press conference, Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng was joined by Rizal Affandi Lukman, Deputy Minister of International Economic Cooperation and Financing, Indonesia; Senator Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Malaysia; Datuk Amar Abang Hj Abdul Rahman Zohari bin Tun Abang Hj Openg, Minister of Tourism and Minister of Housing, Sarawak; and Datuk Rozman Datuk Isli, Chairman of Labuan Corporation, Malaysia.
In the 18th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting joint statement, the ministers said they were encouraged by the overall economic progress of the BIMP-EAGA sub-region with real GDP growth of 4.7 per cent in 2013.
According to the ministers, total trade had slightly increased in 2013 to US$166.35 billion from US$166.05 billion in 2012, whereas foreign direct investments grew by 23 per cent from US$8.2 billion to US$10.2 billion. On the other hand, domestic investments increased four-fold from US$1.1 billion to US$4.6 billion.
In recognising the continued progress on the implementation of projects under the BIMP-EAGA Implementation Blueprint (IB) 2012-2016, the ministers agreed to intensify their work to realise its implementation. In this regard, senior officials have been tasked to expedite the work on such projects and to implement them accordingly.
The ministers also expressed their satisfaction over efforts in ensuring effective coordination among the various sectoral bodies under the four strategic pillars. They also reiterated the need to pursue a multi-sectoral approach to realise the BIMP-EAGA’s goal of becoming the regional food basket and a premier ecotourism destination.
On connectivity, the ministers took note of significant progress in the implementation of the Priority Infrastructure Projects (PIPs), the majority of which involve the improvement of roads, sea ports and airports to link the economic corridors.
“We continue to recognise the role of connectivity as a driver of BIMP-EAGA development,” said the ministers, adding that senior officials and clusters in consultation with the private sector and development partners have been urged to identify feasible and bankable projects to further enhance connectivity and elevate the connectivity agenda beyond 2016.
The ministers lauded the efforts of transport officials in advancing transport connectivity and facilitation in the sub-region and noted the actions being taken to support the accelerated and improved implementation of the transport-related Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), including: (1) The amendment of the protocol on the MoU on the Expansion of Air Linkages; (2) Finalisation of the MoU on Non-Convention Sized Ships (NCSS); and (3) Review of the implementation of the land transport agreement.
The ministers looked forward to the early conclusions of these initiatives as well as the implementation of the resulting recommendations.
The ministers, meanwhile, lauded the private sector over its implementation of the BIMP-EAGA Submarine Terrestrial Cable project, which will hopefully be fully operational by 2016. They noted with encouragement the initiatives by the ICT cluster, including the formulation of the proposed multilateral cooperation on Information Communications Technology (ICT). The ministers expressed their satisfaction over the progress of the West Kalimantan and Sarawak Power Interconnection project, which will contribute to the optimum use of energy resources in BIMP-EAGA.
“We welcome the outcome and recommendations of the study on ‘Evaluating the Prospects for Interconnections among the Borneo-Mindanao Power Systems’,” they added.
On trade and investment facilitation, the ministers welcomed the publication of the BIMP-EAGA Statistical Information Leaflet on Trade, Investment and Tourism, and expressed support to the development of a sustainable BIMP-EAGA database that will provide useful information to stakeholders and development partners. They urged officials and national statistics agencies of respective BIMP-EAGA member countries to lend their full support to this initiative.
The ministers lauded the successful conduct of the 2nd BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders’ Conference held in Davao City, Philippines from October 23-26, 2014. Besides taking note of the positive outcome of the events in forging private sector initiatives and in promoting sub-regional collaboration, the ministers hoped to see similar events organised in the future.
“We welcome Indonesia’s offer to host the 3rd BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT Trade Fair and Conference in 2016,” the ministers said.
Meanwhile, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to intensify cooperation in agricultural development and called for enhanced research and development, more coordinated food policy and greater investment in the agriculture sector, as well as increased efforts in mainstreaming food security and sustainable agriculture development across national, regional and international levels.
The ministers expressed their satisfaction over the increasing number of tourism activities and events across the sub-region, including the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Trade Expo 2014 and reiterated the need for greater synergies between the transport and tourism sectors to complement the development of tourism destinations.
Touching on the environment, the ministers reiterated the need to expand cooperation in environmental management of the resource-rich sub-region, as well as the need to promote clean and green technologies. Besides acknowledging the significance of prioritising efforts to address climate change and risk mitigation, the ministers have tasked their officials to be more proactive in designing guidelines and mechanisms to mainstream environment concerns across all the strategic pillars of BIMP-EAGA.
The ministers recognised the ever-increasing initiatives that are currently being pursued under the BIMP-EAGA cooperation and on the need to effectively coordinate and monitor them through a fully functioning central secretariat.
“We look forward to the finalisation of the institutional arrangements for the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA Facilitation Centre (BIMP-FC) to enable it to function effectively in line with the growing tasks to attain the goals and objectives of BIMP-EAGA.
In view of the realisation of the Asean Community in 2015, the ministers noted that there is a need for “greater collaboration between sub-regional initiatives and Asean-wide initiatives”. They agreed on the need for a mechanism to facilitate all these initiatives and called for the formation of a Project Assessment Committee (PAC) to assess and evaluate sub-regional projects and initiatives, and to work together with the Asean Secretariat for greater project coordination.
Acknowledging the pivotal role of the private sector in BIMP-EAGA, the ministers urged the BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC) to be more proactive in attracting private sector individuals, groups and industry associations to invest and to support the implementation of initiatives in the areas of enhancing connectivity, establishing food security and promoting tourism in BIMP-EAGA.
On the level of cooperation with partners, the ministers thanked the Regional Development Advisor of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for its continued support and assistance in the operationalisation of the IB 2012-2016.
The ministers urged the ADB to continue its technical assistance projects in the transport, energy, trade facilitation and environment sectors, as well as in institutional strengthening and capacity building. In this regard, officials have been tasked by the ministers to look into their recommendations put forward to sustain cooperation beyond 2016, including the formulation of second generation PIPs.
The ministers welcomed the outcome of the 8th BIMP-EAGA and China Senior Officials Meeting and expressed their satisfaction for China’s support, including providing capacity building in the ICT sector. The ministers looked forward to China’s continued assistance in new project proposals in the fields of agriculture, environment and connectivity. In this regard, stakeholders were urged by the ministers to have a more dynamic engagement with China in establishing actual joint venture undertakings.
The ministers urged the Asean Secretariat to strengthen its support in the implementation of relevant regional agreements in BIMP-EAGA under the test-bed approach. They urged the Asean Secretariat to assist in mobilising knowledge, technical and financial resources for BIMP-EAGA’s priority projects from its network of development and strategic partners.
The ministers, meanwhile, acknowledged the importance of collaboration among all sub-regional groupings, as well as with Asean in creating greater synergy and convergence in areas of cooperation. In this regard, senior officials and clusters have been urged by the ministers to enhance coordination among their sectoral bodies.