The South Asia Economic Policy Network (the Network in what follows) was established in 2017. It serves as a platform for collaboration with South Asian think tanks, academics, researchers, policy advisors, policy influencers, and development partners.
The objective is to support an ongoing and more structured dialogue on issues affecting the development prospects of South Asia. The development challenges in the region are manifold and addressing them often means overcoming micro, macro, and political economy challenges. The Network advances the achievement of regional development priorities by, first, nurturing and enhancing the regional dialogue and, second, by deepening two-way knowledge sharing between the region and the World Bank. By doing so the Network also addresses the trust deficit between countries in South Asia and strengthens people-to-people relations.
The Network cofinances regional encounters, leverages South Asian expertise, shares knowledge with counterparts in the region and helps to navigate the political economy in South Asia. It strives for neutrality and contributes to the World Bank’s role as a source of unbiased expertise, as a receptive listener, and as a trusted broker in the exchange of ideas. The Network has had a tremendous start. A databank with over 400 economists has been assembled and there is a frequent interaction with the members of the Network. For example, a survey is sent out every six months and the results feed prominently into the biannual report South Asia Economic Focus.
In addition, the Network is supporting different series of regional workshops and conferences, among others the South Asia Economic Summit, the South Asia Economic Students Meet, the Delhi Macroeconomics Workshop and the Sustainable Development Conference, Islamabad. For most events the Network mobilizes both funding and World Bank expertise. Moreover, the Network organizes and stages new joint activities with regional think tanks, academics and policy advisors, including the South Asia Economic Policy Network Conference series. Among others, it organized a workshop on ‘Jobless Growth’ with the India Statistical Institute with presenters from four South Asian countries (some of the discussed papers will be published in a special issue in the Indian Growth and Development Review).
Similarly, in Fall 2018 the Network organized a workshop on ‘Fiscal Policy in South Asia’ with the Nepal Economic Forum in Kathmandu, Nepal. The event featured a keynote speech by the Finance Minister of Nepal and a wide audience of think tanks, academics, NGO’s and the media. In Spring 2019, the Network co-organized a conference on External Vulnerabilities in South Asia with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, University of Colombo and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In Fall 2019 a conference on ‘Subnational Finances and Local Service Delivery in South Asia’ with the South Asia Network for Economic Modelling (SANEM) was organized in Dhaka, featuring a keynote speech by the Planning Minister of Bangladesh, as well as distinguished speakers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Spring 2020 the Network organized a workshop on ‘State intervention in the Financial Sector in South Asia’ with the Centre for Financial Research and Learning (CAFRAL) in Mumbai that also featured an industry panel and a wide audience of think tanks, academics, NGO’s and the media.