Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ASEAN sets up development fund to bridge economic gap between members











VIENTIANE : Southeast Asian foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to set up an ASEAN Development Fund aimed at narrowing the economic and development gap among its 10 members.

Each country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group would contribute an initial US$1 million to the fund, according to an agreement signed by the foreign ministers meeting in Laos.

Malaysia, which has taken over the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN from Laos, would add an additional US$500,000 on top of its contribution, Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

The fund would be used to finance programmes aimed at reducing a considerable development gap between its bigger and older members the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and newer members Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

It would serve as a "common pool of financial resources" to support a six-year plan signed during an ASEAN leaders' summit in December which focuses on deepening regional integration as it moves towards its goal of a single market by 2020.

Other public or private entities were welcome to contribute to the fund
which would be managed by the ASEAN Secretariat.

Brunei is the 10th member of ASEAN. -

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