Manila, Philippines (BBN) – Removing trade and investment barriers will facilitate the integration efforts in South Asia and deliver sweeping benefits to the region, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study said on Wednesday.

The study, Intraregional Trade and Investment in South Asia, prepared by the ADB, in partnership with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), was one of four new publications on South Asia launched at ADB headquarters in Manila on the day.

“South Asia has taken several steps to strengthen regional economic ties, including the establishment of a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) in 2006. But it remains one of the least integrated regions in the world, with intra-regional trade still hamstrung by prohibitive tariffs and duties, cumbersome border regulations and other restrictions,” the ADB said.

The study found that financial sector reforms, including the development and deepening of capital markets, can have positive benefits regionwide by increasing investment and savings opportunities, and by expanding the range of financial services, including microfinance for the poor.

The fourth publication, countries in transition, reviews the emerging political economy of Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal, who have all held recent elections and share similar concerns, including fallout from the global financial crisis that has hurt exports and remittances.

“To address challenges, a new generation of reforms will be required to ensure greater accountability of public institutions, to improve economic management, to make the political process more inclusive, and to support the mainstreaming of development,” the ADB added.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-11November09-9:01 pm (BST)