South Asia has emerged among the fastest-growing regions in the world and is expected to play a dynamic role in shaping the ‘Asian Century’. Known for its human and natural resources, it has the world’s largest young working population and a significant number of middle-class consumers. According to the most recent World Bank South Asia Economic Focus, South Asia’s economic growth is forecasted to gradually accelerate from 7.1 per cent in 2016 to 7.3 per cent in 2017. It is likely to reach 7.4 per cent in 2018 and 7.5 per cent in 2019. It is estimated that South Asia needs to generate employment for more than 12 million people of working age every year. Home to one-fifth of humanity, it also has 40 per cent of the world’s poor or close to about 400 million people still living in poverty. South Asian countries face significant challenges in providing their people public education, health care, livelihood, and social security. Almost all the South Asian countries are also prone to frequent natural disasters. While they are busy pursuing their respective development plans, it is clear that no country alone can deal with socio-economic challenges that require collective efforts at a regional level.
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