The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should continue to concentrate on narrowing the development gap, promoting equitable economic growth and reducing economic disparity among its member states, senior ASEAN officials have suggested.

They said such problems may hinder the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community and regional cooperation efforts in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural and Political-Security communities.

They shared the findings at the “Mid-Term Review on the Implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan II” held recently in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Kan Pharidh, Permanent Representative of Cambodia to ASEAN and current Chair of the IAI Task Force. It was attended by senior officials of ASEAN working groups on Economic and Socio-Cultural communities and dialogue partners, along with regional and international organisations.

The function heard and discussed reports on the implementation of the IAI Work Plan by the Mekong Institute.

Tabled issues included development challenges faced by the bloc’s members, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), and improving coordination among ASEAN sectoral working groups.

Participants discussed measures to enhance monitoring of relevant initiatives and programmes in the region, especially those of dialogue partners and international institutions, and build the capacity of CLMV and the ASEAN Secretariat to implement the IAI work programme.

They also sought ways to enhance the supervision of related initiatives and regional programmes, especially those with dialogue partners and international organisations.

The IAI was launched by the ASEAN leaders at the 4 th ASEAN Informal Summit in 2000 to narrow the development divide within ASEAN and to enhance the bloc’s competitiveness as a region.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam .-VNA