Third Mekong nations' summit in Laos on Mar 31

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Singapore, Mar 30: Prime Ministers of six countries sharing the Mekong River will convene in Laos for tomorrow's Third Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit. The leaders will discuss coordinated actions to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in the region through expanded transportation and telecommunication linkages, streamlined trade agreements and greater environmental management efforts.

They will be joined by Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda. Since its inception in 1992, the GMS has developed into one of the fastest growing regions of the world, with an average Gross Domestic Product of over 6 per cent in recent years, said ADB in a statement today. Exports from GMS countries, excluding China, quadrupled from 37 billion dollars in 1992 to 179 billion dollars in 2006 and Foreign Direct Investment in the GMS more than tripled from 2 billion dollars in 1992 to 7 billion dollars in 2005.

Annual tourist arrivals also rose dramatically from 10 million in 1995 to over 22 million in 2006.

Over the past 15 years, approximately 10 billion dollars in investments have been made in 34 regional development projects and the ADB contributed over one-third of the overall amount.

''The nations and 320 million people who share the Mekong region have transcended past conflicts in order to work together for the betterment of their shared futures,'' said Mr Arjun Thapan, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

''The gains realised by Mekong nations over the past 15 years clearly demonstrate that coordination and cooperation between neighbours is the most direct pathway to greater prosperity,'' he added.

The ADB has been the lead supporter of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program since it began in 1992.

The GMS program focuses on nine development areas: agriculture, energy, environment, human resource development, private investment, telecommunications, tourism, trade and transportation.

Tomorrow, GMS nations are expected to endorse a five-year action plan (2008-2012) to foster economic growth and prosperity in the region.

UNI

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