south asia watch on trade, economics and environment

Webinars on COVID-19 and South Asia

South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), in association with Biruni Institute, Afghanistan, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), India, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan, and Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), Sri Lanka, is organising a series of webinars to deliberate on various socio-economic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, how they relate to South Asia and what should be the future course of action for South Asian countries. Please see below for details.


A new global order post COVID-19 pandemic? Issues for South Asia

In the past few years, there have been enormous changes in global geopolitics. The world has witnessed unprecedented events, such as Brexit, and increasing hostilities among the global powers, such as trade wars between the US and China. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have inflamed the strenuous relationships between some countries and has also changed many countries’ worldviews. There are uncertainties as to how the world is going to address the various challenges brought about by the pandemic, which the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said is the biggest challenge of the post-war era. Emerging from these uncertainties and challenges is a view that the world order will see a tectonic shift in the post COVID-19 era. How much ground does this view hold? If this comes out to be true, what might the world order look like? More importantly, how will this affect South Asian countries individually and collectively? In this session eminent experts will provide their insights on this crucial topic that will be followed by discussion among the participants. We hope this will help provide inputs to policy makers in South Asia to prepare for the future.

  • Moderator: Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, SAWTEE, Kathmandu
  • Keynote address: Prof Akmal Hussain Dean, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, ITU, Lahore and Co-Chair, SACEPS
    Speakers:
  • Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Former Under Secretary General, United Nations, and Head, SAWTEE Centre for Sustainable Development, Kathmandu
  • Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), Colombo
  • Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

Future of globalization: Outlook for South Asian countries

South Asian countries embarked on regional economic integration initiatives under the aegis of SAARC beginning in the early 1990s. Yet their economies, as a whole, have become integrated more with the rest of the world than with the region. The US-China trade war, which had put the multilateral trade regime under strain, has further aggravated with the outbreak of COVID-19. The WTO is without an appellate body, an unprecedented instance. The Doha Development Agenda (DDA), championed by South Asia alongside other developing and least-developed countries at the WTO, was already in the doldrums. The geopolitical fallout from the pandemic threatens to sideline it further. With the pandemic exposing the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, there have been calls for diversifying trade relationships and suppliers. The convening of a virtual meeting of SAARC leaders by India in March might have been a signal of its rethink on the regional body that has been marginalized. Against this background, what is the future of intra-regional and extra-regional integration for South Asia? What initiatives are needed to harness the potential of intra-regional supply chains? How can the DDA be revived, unless one convincingly argues that it is passé? What should be the strategy of South Asian LDCs who are set to graduate from LDC status and be clubbed with developing economies? These are some of the questions that this session will deliberate on.

  • Moderator: Mr. Pradeep Singh Mehta, Secretary-General, CUTS International, Jaipur and Chair, Advisory Board, SAWTEE
  • Keynote address: Dr. Baikuntha Aryal, Secretary (Commerce), Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Government of Nepal
    Speakers:
  • Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka
  • Ms. Subhashini Abeysinghe, Research Director, Verité Research, Colombo
  • Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), New Delhi

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

Future of e-commerce in South Asia

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, while e-commerce was flourishing in developed countries, readiness of many developing countries to embrace e-commerce was being explored. As the ‘Great Lockdown’ forced people to shelter-at-place and businesses to shut shops, digital commerce emerged as a natural solution for many. Besides the established e-commerce ventures, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced digital heretics to embrace the digital shopping spaces even in the countries with smaller footprints of e-commerce. Although the disruption caused by the pandemic has helped launch the businesses and consumers on the digital bandwagon, the questions are if this trend will be sustained when the pandemic is over and whether there is available infrastructure to support the digital transformation of the businesses. The discourse in this session will look into how this overnight shift can overcome challenges related to digital systems, managing supply chains and logistics to adapt to the digital transformation.

  • Moderator: Dr. Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Secretariat at the WTO, Geneva
  • Keynote address: Hon. Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan
    Speakers:
  • Ms. Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Geneva
  • Mr. Promod Chhetri, General Manager, Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan
  • Ms. Deepali Gotadke, Founder and Business Owner, Web Dreams, Hubli, Karnataka
  • Ms. Surakchya Adhikari, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Thulo.com, Kathmandu

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

South Asia and foreign investment outlook post-COVID-19

One of the casualties of COVID-19 has been foreign direct investment (FDI). Global flow of FDI is expected to contract by 40 percent in 2020. At the same time, it is viewed that the pandemic has made global corporations realize the need to diversify their production networks into more countries and regions. If so, this will create opportunities for developing countries to attract investments but there will also be increased divestment, relocations and more competition for FDI. Hence, in the post-pandemic situation, accelerated investment would require a policy environment that is more open with less interventionism. The aim of this session is to explore the possibilities for countries in South Asia to adapt themselves to the changing investment trajectory.

  • Moderator: Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director and Head, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) South and South-West Asia (SSWA), New Delhi
  • Keynote address: Mr. Bostjan Skalar, Executive Director, World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies, Istanbul
    Speakers:
  • Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka
  • Ms. Bhawani Rana, President, Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Kathmandu
  • Dr. Vaqar Ahmad, Joint Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad
  • Dr. Prabhas Ranjan, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University, New Delhi

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

Lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic: Labour migration and remittances in South Asia

South Asia is one of the largest sources of migrant labourers in the world. In many countries of the region, livelihoods of a large number of people depend on remittances. As the pandemic has battered the world economy, it is expected that the reverse migration of temporary migrant workers from destination countries will add further pressure to countries in South Asia. Drying up of remittances will not only affect the countries’ balance of payments situation, but it could also push remittance-dependent households further into poverty if home countries are unable to provide employment to the returnees. In this regard, in this session we seek to find answers to these questions: what policies and programmes can be effective to help returnee migrant labourers to transition into gainful employment in their home countries? Could this be the time for countries to reframe their policies to wean themselves away from over-dependence on remittances ?

  • Dr. Abid Suleri, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad
  • Keynote address: Prof. Ravi S. Srivastava, Professor and Director, Centre for Employment Studies, Institute for Human Development, New Delhi
    Speakers:
  • Dr. Radhicka Kapoor, Fellow, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), New Delhi
  • Dr. Bilesha Weeraratne, Research Fellow and Head of Migration and Urbanization Research, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), Colombo
  • Dr. Paras Kharel, Research Director, SAWTEE, Kathmandu

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

Impact of COVID-19 on tourism and revival strategies of South Asian countries

The travel and tourism sector contributed 6.6 percent to South Asia's GDP in 2019 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). However, the sector, which was witnessing impressive growth over the years and was playing an important role for economic growth and job creation, has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and remains the most affected sector. Against this background, this session will provide insightful assessments of the impact of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism sector in the region and will aspire to provide possible answers to the crucial question of the time—what kind of revival strategies should the region adopt to elevate the tourism sector to its pre-pandemic status so as to be a driver of economic growth and a major provider of employment in the region?

  • Moderator: Prof. Rupa Chanda, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
  • Keynote address: Ms. Yankila Sherpa, Former Minister of Tourism, Government of Nepal, and Advisor, Tourism Recovery Task Force, Nepal
    Speakers:
  • Mr. Dorji Dhradhul, Director-General, Tourism Council of Bhutan
  • Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director, Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation
  • Mr. Srilal Miththapala, Past President, Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

COVID-19’s lessons for cooperation on climate change: South Asia’s concerns

Although COVID-19 and climate change are crises of different nature, they share some common features, the foremost being their global scope. COVID-19 has been having devastating impacts on people’s health and the economy in almost all the countries in the world; likewise, the rise in global temperatures, if left unchecked, will have harsher consequences, affecting the entire world. While the impact of COVID-19, through containment measures and possible development of vaccines, can be expected to be subdued in a couple of years, there will be no quick fix for the adversities brought forth by climate change. Hence, the fight against climate change has to begin now and the experiences of COVID-19 can offer important lessons for forging cooperation on climate change issues. Against this background, the discussions will focus on what South Asia can learn from the current crisis regarding regional and international cooperation required to prevent a climate crisis in the future.

  • Moderator: Dr. Prabhu Budhathoki, Former Member, National Planning Commission, Kathmandu
  • Keynote address: Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu
    Speakers:
  • Dr. Shafqat Kakakhel, Chair, SDPI, Islamabad and Former Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Dr. Tulsi Gurung, Dean of Academic Affairs, College of Natural Resource, Royal University of Bhutan
  • Dr. Lopa Saxena, Research Fellow, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, UK
  • Dr. Athula Senaratne, Research Fellow and Head of Environment Economic Policy Research, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF

Future of development finance and South Asia’s development

While developing countries were already witnessing significant financing challenges in their pursuit of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the COVID-19 crisis, through putting a dent on their domestic resources and fiscal space and through affecting their external finance prospects, has made the challenge almost insurmountable. Against this background, this session will discuss the future of development finance, with a focus on South Asia, which faces paramount development challenges. The session will deliberate on important questions such as: how can South Asian countries expand their fiscal space and better mobilize resources to ensure adequate responses and timely recovery? What are the strategies that the countries can adopt to enhance their external finance situation? How can the countries align their responses with the SDGs so that the development goals are not aborted?

  • Moderator: Ms. Amena Arif, Country Manager, International Finance Corporation, Sri Lanka and the Maldives
  • Keynote address: Prof. Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka
    Speakers:
  • Dr. Selim Raihan, Professor, University of Dhaka and Executive Director, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), Dhaka
  • Dr. Prabir De, Professor, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)
  • Mr. Nazir Kabiri, Executive Director, Biruni Institute, Kabul

SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

View PDF