The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) conducted its sixth Governing Council meeting in Nadi, Fiji this week on the sidelines of the SAARC Informal Meeting of Finance Ministers and Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
The Governing Council members of the SDF are Finance Ministers of the eight SAARC member states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. According to the SDF Secretariat officials, the governing council approved several critical issues pertaining to the future strategies and action plan of the SAARC Development Fund.
SDF focuses on the welfare of the people of SAARC region so that their quality of life can be improved through accelerated economic growth, social progress and reduced poverty. The is done through three financing windows: social, economic and infrastructure. During the meeting, the SDF CEO presented a report on the status and its future action plan including operationalisation of economic and infrastructure windows of SDF. The Minutes of Board Meetings and Audited Financial Statements were adopted by the Governing Council, and a new external auditor was also approved by the Council.
The Chief Executive Officer of SDF, Dr. Sunil Motiwal, said that he informed the Governing Council of the five projects which are approved by the SDF Board Directors under the economic and infrastructure windows of the SDF. “Few bankable projects are under various stages of discussion. The Social Window of SDF is in a continuous process of identifying regional cross border projects based on the need of the Member States from time to time,” he said. Project Financing Agreements (PFAs) have been signed with 67 implementing agencies for 12 projects across all Members States. Seven out of the 12 projects (have been completed.
“The immediate focus areas for us is to strengthen economic and infrastructure windows, and building up the credit portfolio through the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) programme,” said Dr Motiwal. He said that the fund mobilisation under the social, economic & infrastructure windows, introduction of grants plus loans combination for Social Window, and availing line of credit and grants from the various Multilateral Development Banks are underway. The SDF has committed USD 148 million for the three funding windows and allocated USD 50 million for funding of Micro, Small Medium Enterprises. As of now, SDF has disbursed USD 48 million and Bhutan is one of the largest recipients of the financial assistance from the SDF.
“We are committed towards the organisational transformation of SDF to become the SAARC Development Bank – a Regional Development Bank with enhanced capacity and presence across the member states,” said Dr Motiwal.