Finance Ministers of the eight-nation regional bloc South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in their second meeting here agreed to expedite early operationalisation of the Saarc Development Fund.
Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters the SDF had a corpus of 0 million. The fund is being created to focus on improvement of maternal and child health, women's empowerment and capacity building for enhancing the quality of education in the region.
"The proposed fund has three windows: economic, social and infrastructure. I would especially commend the social window and urge that the Fund be used for schemes, programmes and projects that are aimed at the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our region," Chidambaram said. "While an economic union envisages full and complete integration of the economies, the first step towards that is the hassle-free procedures at the border," he added.
The group recommended that the sub-group on investment and arbitration be directed to finalise the agreement and submit it for approval of the next session of the standing committee which will meet in December, 2007.
On collaboration between the capital market regulators, Chidambaram said there was now a growing awareness that capital markets in each member country would require some kind of coordination and integration.
Recognising this, the meeting has recommended establishment of an expert group on development of capital markets in the region.
"I think, questions about one capital market or cross-border listings are for the distant future. At the moment, what we are trying to see is whether capital market regulators can work together, share information and cooperate with each other through MoUs," he said.
A meeting of Saarc Finance Secretaries discussed the issue of terror funding in the region yesterday. A working group of the SAARC will meet later this month to study ways to counter terror funding in the region.
"The working group will meet on September 24 or 26 to suggest more concrete ways to counter terror funding," Financial Sector Secretary Vinod Rai told reporters here.
Chidambaram said the inter-governmental expert group on financial issues has been mandated to develop the roadmap for the SDF, the South Asian Economic Union and the South Asian Customs Union in a gradual and phased manner.