Mekong Leaders Agree on Ambitious 5-Year Development Plan

The Prime Ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam at Monday’s third Greater Mekong Sub-region Summit in Laos agreed on a comprehensive five-year plan of action that aims to spur growth, reduce poverty, promote social development and enhance environmental protection in the sub-region.

(L-R) Prime Ministers Nguyen Tan Dung from Viet Nam, Samak Sundaravej from Thailand, Thein Sein from Myanmar, Buasone Bouphavanh from Laos, Premier Wen Jiabao from China, Hun Sen from Cambodia and ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda at the summit (Photo: AFP)

Under the Plan of Action for 2008-2012, the six nations sharing the Mekong River have committed to accelerating the construction and improvement of the remaining sections of GMS transport corridors, including a rail link joining Singapore and Kunming.

They also committed to devoting more resources to rural communications development; implementing new bio-fuel and rural renewable energy development initiatives; intensifying efforts to protect forests and reduce environmental risks; and strengthening the sustainable management of natural and cultural tourism sites.

The other commitments are to implement a new strategic action plan for cooperation in education, health, and labor; enhance the prevention and control of communicable diseases in border areas; and harmonize trade procedures and facilitate border crossing formalities.

In addition to agreeing on Monday’s Plan of Action, the Prime Ministers witnessed the signing of agreements to facilitate cross-border power trade, and promote development along major regional transport corridors.

Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda was joining the leaders in the Greater Mekong Sub-region Summit on March 30-31 as ADB has been the leading supporter of the GSM Economic Cooperation Program since it began in 1992.

The Prime Ministers and Mr. Kuroda also celebrated the completion of a new sub-regional telecommunications backbone – the foundation of a GMS Information Superhighway Network that will help spur growth and development – and officially opened a highway connecting China and Thailand via Laos.

ADB, in a Monday statement, quoted Lao Deputy PM Thongloun Sisoulith as addressing the summit, “Over the past fifteen years, the GMS program has been a key element in our nations’ successful efforts to reduce poverty.”

“The new GMS Plan of Action we have adopted today will help us transform the Mekong sub-region into a hub of development in Asia,” ADB quoted him.

ADB Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr. said at Monday’s event, “The GMS program is an important part of that success story, and a testament to the role regional cooperation and integration can play in helping drive growth and reduce poverty.”

Tuong Thuy

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