Islamabad – Staff Reporter:
Prime Minister Imran Khan has emphasized on taking full advantage of geographical location, economic assets and political relationships among members of the Economic Cooperation Organization for achieving the common goals and priorities.
In his opening remarks at the 14th ECO summit held virtually on Thursday, he said regional connectivity and integration have proven essential for growth and development.
The Prime Minister said enhanced physical structure will generate economic activity, trade, employment, mobility and cross border exchanges.
Presenting his six-point plan for securing the common objectives of the ECO countries, the Prime Minister said we need to recover robustly from the economic and health crises induced by the Covid-19.
He said we must adopt a plan to build resilient health care systems to respond to such crises in the future.
Imran Khan said we must develop an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and serve as a pathway for trade between major economies of the East and the West, North and South. He said Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad commercial cargo train and proposed Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway links are important regional connectivity projects. In addition, linking CPEC with Afghanistan and beyond is vital.
The Prime Minister said we must implement the cross border projects already agreed under the ECO members, including TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA-1000, establishing an ECO investment agency and organizing an annual ECO investment fair.
Imran Khan said our mutual trade which is just eight percent of our total trade could be expanded ten-fold.
To remain competitive, he said we must promote knowledge based economies, which needs enhanced research and development and focus on rapid digitalization.
He lauded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current chair, for his timely initiative amidst the COVID-19 scenario.
The Prime Minister said the ECO members states are severely affected by the health, economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 pandemic with over 150 million people hit by the virus and over 2.5 million lost their lives.
Imran Khan said Pakistan faced challenges during the pandemic, however it adopted a people and poor-centric approach to balance saving of lives and livelihoods.
He said despite the financial constraints, his government allocated an unprecedented 8 billion dollars for the poorest and most vulnerable households through small businesses and direct handouts.
He said the rich countries injected 20 trillion to their economies to stimulate growth, however, the developing countries donot have the capacity for fiscal space.