Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, Program Manager of the Trade and Investment Division of the Mekong Institute, presented a paper on GMS Development And Cooperation: Prospects And Challenges at the 17th ASEAN Forum organized under the theme The Perspective and Strategy on Mekong Development: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and China, in Seoul, South Korea on December 8, 2011. 

Though South East Asia has experienced dynamic growth in terms of their economy, it is still apparent that the gap in terms of economic development within and between South East Asia countries exists. The imbalance of such economic development within the ASEAN Member Countries was the focus of the 17th ASEAN Forum. It was organized to pay special attention to the latecomersCambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Viet Nam (CLMV). 

A clearer picture of this unequal economic prosperity in the SE Asia countries can be illustrated through a comparison of Singapores, Lao PDRs, and Cambodias per capita income. In 2009, while Singapore gained over USD 37,000 per capita income, Lao PDR and Cambodia received only USD 1,004 and USD 907 respectively. 

Therefore, in Mr. Duttas paper, the need and importance of capacity development for regional cooperation in order to boost the competitiveness in Greater Mekong Sub Region (GMS) were raised and highlighted. During the presentation, attention was also drawn on the emerging issues and challenges among least developed countriesCLMVin the context of ASEAN 2015. Of the emerging issues, ones that were determined as the barriers in bridging the development gap and the nations integration into AEC within the CLMV are: under developed public HR and institutional support systems, lack of SMEs access to regional and global value chains, lack of competitiveness as a result of ineffective agriculture policies and process, and limited good agricultural practices. 

While drawing up the various dimensions in regional cooperation, the paper introduced the Human Resource Development needs in certain sectors considered important for positioning the CLMV countries to effectively participate in the regional economy. Aspects of development in terms of human resources proposed in the paper are: government officials capacity building in implementing policies and facilitating free movement of goods and peoples; and lastly, effective implementation of Good Agricultural Practices. 

The ASEAN Forum is an arena where Southeast Asian scholars and experts visit Korea to share and discuss their views and opinions on current issues in their respective countries or East Asian region. Through regular academic exchanges among not only scholars but also various experts from government, academe and civil society, the ASEAN-Korean human network of scholars and experts will contribute to the consolidation of an institutional basis for deepening mutual cooperation. 

The ASEAN Forum is organized two or three times a year in Korea. For each forum, three to four Southeast Asian scholars and experts are invited to share and discuss their insights and expertise with Korean audiences. Various numbers of Korean scholars, experts and students participate as audiences and discussants at the forum. The themes of each forum are coordinated by the forum organizer so as to fit into the grand scheme of deepening mutual cooperation. 

The Forum was sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) and ASEAN Secretariat and was organized by the Korean Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (KISEAS). As of today, 17 ASEAN Forums have been held in Korea, and a number of prominent Southeast Asian scholars and experts have been invited and delivered their expertise. 

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