Mekong Forum: Integration Needed for Inclusive Growth

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Mekong Institute (MI) hosted its Mekong Forum 2016, August 29, where it was agreed that integration and regional support were needed to establish inclusive growth in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).

The Forum took place in Khon Kaen, Thailand and was attended by development workers, senior policy makers, business leaders, civil society leaders, and academics. The annual event serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas for enhancing cooperation and development in the Mekong region. Participants share their stories, accomplishments, and creative innovations related to the changing needs of GMS countries.

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jim Bolger delivered a special lecture on “Sharing Responsibility for Common Prosperity”.Former Thai Minister of Energy Narongchai Akaraseranee discussed “Capturing Growth in the GMS”.

MI Executive Director Watcharas Leelawat presided over the opening ceremony.

MI at Mekong Tourism Forum

Watcharas-Leelawath

Mekong Institute Executive Director Dr Watcharas Leelawath talks to Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 delegates in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

At the Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 in July, Dr Watcharas underscored connectivity as the key driver of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the GMS.

Infrastructure, especially roads and transport links, was “crucial for enhancing connectivity,” Dr Watcharas said. Better connectivity between nations and regions leads to increases in FDI, trade, and jobs, and a reduction in poverty.

Cross-border transport arrangements, such as the new single inspection facility for trucks and passports at the border between Laos and Vietnam, save enormous time and money when taken in aggregate, he said.

Dr Watcharas told Mekong Tourism Forum delegates that the GMS railway was closer to becoming reality. There remains a need to agree on technical standards, cross-border procedures, a centralized organizing body, and how to best involve the private sector, he said.

Energy policy is another driver of FDI and economic growth, Dr Watcharas said at the tourism event. MI advocates in “indigenous, renewable, low-carbon” energy production, particularly if it involves public-private partnerships or the private sector in its own right.

For human resource development (HRD), Dr Watcharas believes governments need to adjust their attitude from “regulator to facilitator”. HRD priorities identified by MI include English-language proficiency and vocational training in such areas as fisheries, agriculture, hospitality, and tourism.

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) welcomes contributions from experts and writers on the subject of inclusive growth. Click here to discover more about our contributor program.

Presentations from Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 are available for download here.

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