Narrowing development gap, a BIMP-EAGA goal
Hakim Hayat

THE regional economic cooperation initiative between Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) remains relevant as it continues to give much added value to all its member countries’ leaders to work at the Asean level, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said in a titah, while chairing the 9th BIMP-EAGA Summit yesterday.

The annual regional meeting between leaders from the four Asean member states was held following the conclusion of the 22nd Asean Summit Leaders’ Retreat at the Prime Minister’s Office building.

His Majesty added that last year, leaders adopted the BIMP-EAGA Implementation Blueprint (IB) 2012-2016 which laid out a number of crucial projects that are to be implemented over the next few years in order to ensure progress continues unhindered. His Majesty said he therefore looked forward to reports of progress made since its adoption, as well as how each Asean member state can better manage their level of cooperation at the regional level.

BIMP-EAGA’s goal is to narrow the development gaps across and within its members countries and across Asean with the main objectives of increasing trade, tourism and investment.

Among the main highlights in a joint statement issued by the leaders at the end of the 9th BIMP-EAGA Summit were significant boost in trade and tourism and the need to have a fully-functioning central secretariat for BIMP-EAGA.

The leaders emphasised that trade will continue to be one of the cornerstones of BIMP-EAGA cooperation.

Total trade value of the bloc grew significantly by 70 per cent from US$100 billion in 2009 to US$170 billion in 2011.

Intra-EAGA trade represented nearly 25 per cent of the total EAGA trade over the same period.

The leaders also noted the positive trend in foreign direct investment in member states which has grown by 129 per cent from US$24 billion in 2009 to US$55 billion in 2011.

The leaders are also pleased with the progress in implementing the Priority Infrastructure Projects, since the endorsement of the BIMP-EAGA IB 2012-2016.

“We took note that the 2013-2014 rolling pipeline projects that have been identified will further contribute to the attainment of the BIMP-EAGA vision. We look forward to the finalisation of the ‘Result-Based Monitoring and Evaluation Framework’ to provide indicators and assessment of the substantive outcomes and impacts of these projects to our community.

“We reiterated the need for effective and timely implementation of the IB and therefore, we tasked our Sectoral Ministers to jointly coordinate and implement these BIMP-EAGA priority projects,” the joint statement said.

The leaders also recognised the need to improve the level of synergy through greater coordination, based on the four pillars of BIMP-EAGA – connectivity, food basket, tourism and environment – to further improve economic development and to narrow the development gap of member states.

The performance in the tourism sector over the last three years within BIMP-EAGA demonstrates strong potential for growth. The combined foreign and domestic arrivals in BIMP-EAGA registered a 31 per cent increase, from 13 million in 2009 to 17 million in 2011.

The heads of state also recognised that with the ever-increasing initiatives that are currently being pursued under the BIMP-EAGA cooperation, a fully-functioning central secretariat is needed to effectively coordinate and monitor initiatives.

“We look forward to the finalisation of the institutional arrangements for the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA Facilitation Centre (BIMP-FC) by the next ministerial meeting,” the leaders affirmed.

Prior to the summit, His Majesty together with Indonesian President Dr H Susilo Bambang Yudhyono; Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang; and the Philippines President, Benigno S Aquino III had an official group photo taken.

The summit was also attended by BIMP-EAGA ministers, the Asean Secretary-General, Vice President of the Asian Development Bank, BIMP-EAGA National Secretariat and BIMP-EAGA Facilitation Centre officials.

Also present were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister’s Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II and Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office. - Borneo Bulletin (26 April 2013)