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Officials Stress Infrastructure, Investment Environment in GMS Development

Senior officials with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Thursday that the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) had to strengthen efforts in infrastructure construction and improvement of "soft" investment and trade environment to propel economic cooperation in the area.

Jin Liqun, vice president of the ADB who is in this southwest China's city to attend the 12th ministerial meeting of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program, said that the area's lagging transport facilities had hindered its development.

The ADB had stressed enhancement of infrastructure construction since it initiated the cooperation program in 1992 and had so far invested over 2 billion US dollars in it. The efforts had yielded tangible results, with three north-south and two east-west roads and a pan-Asia railway being built, with the whole course of the Mekong River opening to navigation since June 2001.

During this ministerial meeting, Jin said, Myanmar will join the GMS cross-border transport agreement, which will complete the no-barrier transport system in the subregion.

In the coming decade, US$15 billion to 20 billion is needed for infrastructure construction alone, and the new transport network will bring the Mekong countries even closer, said Jin.

Along with the improvement of "hard" facilities, soft environment for trade and investment facilitation is also in urgent need of improvement. Rajat M. Nag, director general of ADB's Mekong Department, said that at Thursday's meeting with development partners, which was held to make preparations for the formal convening of the ministerial conference Friday, the participants had heated discussions on improving the soft environment, which include facilitation of customs clearance, a good finance system and efficient and transparent government, and a good legal system.

Nag said capital deficiency had restricted the economic development in the subregion, and the ADB hoped the private sectorwould increase its presence in GMS development projects, such as railway building.

(Xinhua News Agency September 19, 2003)

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