Mekong region needs to improve connectivity: leaders

15-Sep-2018 Intellasia | The Saigon Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Mekong region would be ranked among the world’s 20 largest economies if it were a common area, but the region has yet to form deep connectivity, heard attendees at a discussion session “A new vision for the Mekong Region” held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Hanoi on September 12.

As a single entity, the Mekong would be the world’s sixth most populous area, with 240 million people, and have total gross domestic product of $800 billion.

The Mekong region would be listed in the G20 with a collective value of exports amounting to $466 billion, making the region the ninth-largest exporter in the world if it were one economy.

“However, the Mekong region lacks integration,” Justin Wood, head of Regional Agenda for Asia Pacific at WEF, noted at the session on a new vision for the Mekong region, explaining that the intra-region exports account for a mere 8 percent of total revenue, while exports to other countries outside the region reach 92 percent, compared with the staggering 70 percent earned by European countries.

Meanwhile, of the total foreign direct investment pledged in the region, FDI from within the Mekong region account for a trivial 4 percent, Justin added.

“This proves that the Mekong region has failed to have its economy integrated in spite of multiple programmes having been carried out before,” Wood remarked.

Many attendees at the session agreed that the Mekong region, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, faces difficulties in connectivity due to the similar products of these countries, such as rice, which makes them competitors.

However, despite the common products, the five countries have succeeded in drumming up mutual support instead of competition, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen stressed, pointing out that bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam reaches some $4 billion per year, while trade between Cambodia and Thailand amounts to $6 billion per year.

“If we establish a rice association, the cooperation, especially in the agriculture sector, which is the spearhead industry of the Mekong region, will be further strengthened,” PM Hun Sen added.

The connectivity between the Mekong countries falls far below expectations, Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc noted, stating that the fourth industrial revolution will create major opportunities to foster the region’s deep integration in terms of physical and digital infrastructure, with a potential market of some 250 million users.

PM Phuc stressed that at some meetings between the ministers of countries within the framework of WEF Asean 2018, Vietnam proposed a common roaming plan for all subscribers among the Mekong countries, gradually expanding to the whole of the Asean, so that the region’s people can enjoy the best telecommunications services, with international roaming costing the same as domestic calls.

The effective use of water also took centerstage at the event as the Mekong River plays an important role in the development of the five riparian countries.

According to Thai deputy prime minister Prajin Juntong, the Mekong River is a breath of life for the five countries, providing abundant natural resources and contributing to people’s sustainable livelihoods.

Lao prime minister Thongloun Sisoulith agreed, asserting that “the Mekong River is a common natural resource of all the countries.”

Although Laos is considered a powerhouse generating electricity for Asian countries, many doubts about its abilities have arisen since the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower dam in southern Laos collapsed in July. The Lao prime minister lamented that Laos is now struggling to retain its position as an energy resource for the Asian region, adding that the country’s development of electricity to meet the demands of the neighbouring countries remains limited. However, Laos still has enough potential to boost the energy sector due to its large water resources, Thongloun asserted.

The Lao leader noted that the country has singlehandedly fulfilled two-thirds of the plan to supply electricity to its residents and sell energy to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Laos currently has some 50 hydropower dams, Thongloun stated, adding that the collapsed dam is being reconstructed and that various dam-building projects will be executed in accordance with international standards in the coming period. Laos has suspended many hydropower dam projects to review and check projects that are underway to ensure security and efficiency in energy supply after the dam collapse incident.

The event was organised within the framework of WEF Asean 2018 and was attended by Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, Lao prime minister Sisoulith, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Thai deputy prime minister Prajin Juntong.


Category: Economy, Vietnam

Print This Post

Comments are closed.