Do Cultural Patterns Contribute to South Asian Challenges?

Guest Post by Aarya Nijat, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Afghanistan

The parallel panel of Global and Regional Competitiveness of South Asian Enterprises and the discussions that it enveloped highlighted a common classical pattern: mistaking very complicated sets of challenges with roots in wide scale cultural issues for problems addressing which requires not more than our current capacities and tools. One of participants raised a key question: “Do we (South Asian Governments) really believe in competitiveness?” The moderator of the discussion responded with identifying this as a clash between the de juro and the de facto. He put forward the recommendation of bringing a panel of Trade Ministers for the next Summit, facilitating their engagement in this conversation with technical experts in the audience asking key questions as this.

Great, but something is missing. The de juro and the de facto situation is a classic example of conflict between values that the region upholds and the realities that we live. For example, corruption or lack of accountable governance are challenges too complicated for our existing problem solving capacity. Therefore, bringing a panel of Trade Ministers can definitely help them engage with these questions and reflect but would not help us get even close to practical answers to these challenges. An alternative way forward route could be having another panel that focuses on how cultural patterns play a role in blocking growth. This will require a group of experts with capacity to facilitate cultural questioning at regional and subsequently national levels. And perhaps all conversations on issues apprantly so distinct from culture such as patents, tariff or bilateral trade should consider treating culture as a cross cutting theme.
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