Cheap Talk

July 16, 2008 (AFP) – South Asian leaders meeting in Sri Lanka next month should agree to slash telecom tariffs in their countries to promote inter-regional trade, a policy think-tank said Wednesday. Regional policy group LIRNEasia said reducing call costs between members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) would encourage trade and improve business links between the countries.

LIRNEasia executive director Rohan Samarajiva said calls between member and mostly neighbouring countries were often much more expensive than telephoning nations much further away such as the United States.

“It’s amazing that, neighbouring SAARC countries cost 40 to 50 percent more than the distant USA,” said Samarajiva, referring to calls from Sri Lanka.

Colombo is hosting the 15th eight-nation SAARC summit on August 1 and 2.

“It would, indeed, have been a useful talk shop that broke the monopoly on cheap talk, currently enjoyed by the leaders of SAARC,” he said of the meet.

“And once the people start talking and interacting and doing business, who knows what could follow, real regional cooperation, even?”

LIRNEasia conducted a study of telecom charges in SAARC member