New Delhi, Sep 15: Finance Minister P Chidambaram today called upon SAARC nations for greater cooperation for the development and deepening of the capital markets and their closer integration and early completion on customs cooperation.
He also unfolded a plan for collective efforts to achieve the goal of financial inclusion to give a better deal to the people of the region.
Addressing the Second meeting of the SAARC Finance Ministers here, Mr Chidambaram also made out a case for making the 300 million dollar SAARC Development Fund (SDF) operational as early as possible and improving the knowledge base on Public Private Partnerships for better harnessing of resources for infrastructure development.
The SDF is intended for social sector development of the countries of the region.
The Finance Minister called for a quick transition from the declaration stage to the implementation of the objectives of SAARC.
Mr Chidambaram said the international community was fully seized of the situation where securities markets, particularly those in the emerging economies, were susceptible to the effects of cross-border financial flows and activities.
The Finance Minister, in this regard, offered some important suggestions on increasing collaboration among the SAARC countries with respect to the capital markets.
These included; (a) Enhanced collaboration among SAARC capital market regulators through MoUs and other bilateral accords that allow flexibility in networking and exchange of information. This would also involve establishment of associations and bodies with the specific purpose of removing barriers to capital market integration in the region (b) Harmonisation of laws, regulations, accounting and governance standards and development of a regulatory framework with regard to enforcement, compliance, investor protection and information sharing. Concerted efforts would be essential to pre-empt financial crises and prevent regulatory failures.
(c) Facilitation of cross-border transactions within the region.
Mr Chidambaram offered to share India's varied and rich experience on achieiving financial inclusion and said the country would be eager to learn from the experience of SAARC countries.
''Thereafter, perhaps, we could consider further means for achieving the goal of total financial inclusion'', he said.
Mr Chidambaram noted that the economies of the SAARC countries have been maintaining sustained high rates of growth. ''This is an encouraging sign. It is necessary to work together to develop closer regional cooperation so that the adverse effects of cyclical fluctuations on our economies is reduced to a large extent'', he added.
Mr Chidambaram said as the total requirements of the infrastructure sector could not be met from public funds alone or by the public sector alone, India had taken the decision to promote Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in this sector.
''India would be happy to share its experience in PPPs and learn from your experience as well'', he said.
Mr Chidambaram requested the Group on Customs Cooperation to expeditiously complete the task on hand so that the next steps to forge a South Asian Economic Union could be taken. ''It is important that we are able to report progress in the next two years,'' he said.
Mr Chidambaram noted that a SAARC network of researchers on global financial and economic issues had been established to identify, analyse and help the countries of the region face the current global financial and economic developments. This network could provide the theoretical framework for regional economic integration and development.
The SAARC Finance Ministers elected Mr Chidambaram as the Chairperson of the meeting.