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Modi proposes special facility for funding SAARC infra projects

PTI November 26, 2014 14:25 IST

Kathmandu: Seeking to strengthen economic ties within the SAARC region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today proposed a special purpose facility to finance infrastructure projects and called for common standards to speed up trade activities.

"Let's make it even easier for our businesses through a SAARC Business Traveller Card," Modi said in his address to leaders at the 18th SAARC Summit.

Noting that SAARC nations have failed to move with the expected speed, he said, "today, less than five per cent of the region's global trade takes place between us. Even at this modest level, less than 10 per cent of the region's internal trade takes place under SAARC Free Trade Area."

Infrastructure is the region's "greatest weakness and its most pressing need", he said, adding it is harder to travel within the region than to Bangkok or Singapore.

According highest priority to infrastructure development, Modi said the proposed Special Purpose Facility would help in funding projects in the region.

Touching upon ease of doing business in India, Modi underlined the need for extending the same to SAARC region.

"I promise to ensure that our facilities at the border will speed up, not slow down, trade... Let's all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paper work less burdensome," he said.

The Prime Minister said that goods travel from one Punjab to the other Punjab through Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Karachi - making the journey eleven times longer and the cost four times higher.

Admitting that India, too, has its share of responsibility, because of its size and location, Modi said, "I know that many of your goods, too, have to do a Parikrama of India to reach their destinations."

"We must shrink the distance between our producers and consumers and use the most direct routes of trade. I know India has to lead, and we will do our part. I hope, each of you will, too," he said.