Getting the issue of lowering intra-SAARC call charges into the agenda of SAARC was something we were told we could not do. We were too late to go through the technical committees, we were told. We appear to have succeeded not only in getting it into the agenda, but into the SAARC Chairman’s speech!
The full text of the SAARC Chairman’s speech and the declaration are now available. Rather unusually, tariff proposal is mentioned as high as in paragraph 6 in a 41 paragraph declaration. It is not the most elegant drafting (it more properly belongs in para 22 or even 7), but someone was very keen to give it prominence. The use of the term international direct dial (a Sri Lankan usage; Indians call these services ISD) suggest Sri Lanka authorship. Thank you, whoever you are!
After all, it was an element of the SAARC Action Plan and the technical committees had been chewing on it for 10 years. What we did was present the evidence through influential media in SAARC countries.
We are happy. Evidence-based intervention through the media works. But real success is when the rates are actually lowered to levels that are not above extra-SAARC rates. When they are lowered we will publicly thank the SAARC Chairman.
The titles I proposed for my op eds were variations on “cheap talk.” Unless this proposal is implemented (we can advise any regulatory agency who asks on exactly how to do it), this will be another example of cheap talk from SAARC.
The foreign minister (chair of the overall SAARC implementation committee) has spoken about telephone tariffs at the closing news conference and said that lowering them would give practical effect to this year’s theme.