Ministers at the 22nd GMS Ministerial Conference celebrated 25 years of economic cooperation, acknowledging the achievements of a program that has created a strong bond of openness, mutual trust, and shared commitment.
Six countries — Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam — entered the program in 1992, with assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to enhance economic relations. Under the program, investment projects worth more than $19.1 billion have so far been undertaken.
“Although ADB facilitated the process, the initiative was driven by the countries themselves, with a sharp focus on joint action to address common challenges,” said ADB Vice-President Stephen Groff. “The GMS Program has been guided by the 3 Cs: connectivity, competitiveness, and community. This overarching approach to regional development produced significant results.”
At the meeting, the ministers welcomed the preparation of the Ha Noi Action Plan (HAP) 2018-2022, which calls for an expansion of economic corridors to boost connectivity between countries as well as within rural and urban centers to ensure a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth. They also endorsed the GMS Regional Investment Framework 2022, to support the HAP through a pipeline of 222 investment and technical assistance projects valued at $64 billion. The ministers urged greater engagement of development partners and private sector to meet financing requirements in the GMS.
The ministers extended strong support for a new GMS Transport Sector Strategy that aims to build a seamless, efficient, reliable, and sustainable GMS transport system. This will be achieved through the improvement of the subregion’s links with South Asia and other parts of Southeast Asia, better cross-border transport, strengthened intermodal transport links and logistics development, as well as enhanced road safety. The GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025 was also endorsed to enable more competitive, balanced, and sustainable destination development. The ministers welcomed the progress towards the formal establishment of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office as an intergovernmental organization.
In agriculture, they welcomed the endorsement by the Second GMS Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting of a strategy to promote safe and environment-friendly agriculture products, and a plan to strengthen value chain integration involving smallholder farmers, rural women, as well as small and medium-sized agro-enterprises.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in co-financing.