Indian Ocean states hope to improve prosperity
With a potentially huge market of some 2.5 billion people the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) hopes that partnership among its 21 member nations will boost the growth of all its economies.
Chairperson of the association’s business forum Yugi Prayitno said the forum had proposed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between members.
The agreement will be the umbrella for cooperation in trade and investment, Yugi said Thursday following discussions of the business and academic forums of the association in Jakarta.
Ahead of it first leaders’ summit in March, Bali will host the senior officials meeting on Oct. 22-27.
IORA secretariat director, Firdaus Dahlan said member states around the Indian Ocean had lacked a mechanism for cooperation since IORA’s inception in 1997. “So the CEPA could be the answer to this,” he said.
Indonesia is the current chair after Australia, to be replaced by South Africa next year.
Today IORA comprises Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, South Africa, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Firdaus acknowledged that cooperation among IORA member states had not yet developed as well as in ASEAN and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
Firdaus said that the diversity of economies among members had become one of the major impediments to boosting cooperation among them.
“There are members which have high income like Australia and Singapore, then middle income such as Indonesia and Malaysia, but also least developed countries like Bangladesh, Comoros, Yemen, and Tanzania,” he said. Despite this, he said IORA, with its almost 2.5 billion population, was a huge market.
Earlier, the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group drew up the proposal for IORA to focus on improving the economy and maritime environment, or the “blue economy.”
The group’s chairperson Adriana Elisabeth said the blue economy concept highlighted the importance of inclusive and sustainable values.
She said that agendas for the IORA meeting in Bali include maritime safety and security, fisheries management.
Regional and global cooperation in disaster mitigation stepped up since the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, in which some 150,000 were killed or went missing in the provinces of Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra. The disaster also affected other countries around the Indian Ocean such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Somalia. (sha)