It was a cold evening back in 2004 when a few students and professors of Ramjas College of the University of Delhi got together and initiated an idea that would form the basis for improving regional cooperation among South Asian countries. South Asia has many things in common, and is affected by diverse sets of issues that require cooperation to solve. Under this premise, the South Asian Economics Students’ Meet (popularly known as SAESM) came to life with valuable contributions made by five leading South Asian Universities offering Economics Degrees; the University of Delhi in India; Lahore School of Management Sciences in Pakistan; University of Dhaka in Bangladesh; University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.
SAESM is perhaps the only regional conference in South Asia that dedicates itself to mutual learning across countries while fostering interactive/soft skills and kinships among undergraduates studying economics providing a scholarly and friendly approach for all participants. The meet lasts around a week and includes paper based presentations, competitions, fruitful and expert-led discussions on an array of topics affecting South Asia and an excursion organized by the host country. While the host country for setting have changed; Delhi in 2004, Lahore in 2005, Dhaka in 2006; Colombo in 2007; Delhi in 2008; Dhaka in 2009 and most recently in Colombo this year, the spirit remains the same.
This year’s theme was “Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia.” The conference was organized by the Development Resource Centre of the Department of Economics at the University of Colombo in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. There were 24 thematic papers presented organized under four broad areas of Regulation of Business, Access to Sound Money, Freedom for Regional Trade, and Security of Private Property Rights in South Asia.
Next came two lively and celebrated competitions of the meet; Quizonomics and the Budding Economist competition. Quizonomics involved team work where three teams engage in an intense competition to win the game by responding to direct questions and policy queries based on economic fundamentals and current world issues. The coveted title of “Budding Economist of South Asia" was no easy task as each competitor went through rounds of rigorous testing of their theoretical and practical knowledge of Economics. Keshav Parthasarathy from University of Delhi was the winner this year.
There was also plenty of enjoyment, warm friendships established and lasting memories as participants live together as one family throughout the entire programme. The most surprising and exciting fact for me is this unity and brotherhood that everyone cultivates even amidst a competition. In fact SAESM has given undergraduates an opportunity to pave their way for higher studies in globally recognized universities and exchange programmes through the links that they make.
My personal experience of SAESM dates back to 2007 when the conference first came to Colombo. As an undergraduate of University of Colombo, I was awed by the caliber of the entire event and realized how important it is to become a part of such excellence. I was then fortunate to be in the Sri Lankan delegation to the SAESM held in Delhi (2008) and Dhaka (2009) where my knowledge and attitude changed, so that I can undoubtedly say that SAESM had given me a lot to think about. It is not only the friends that I made but also the skills and abilities that I discovered within me which moved me forward to reach new heights. Also the opportunities that I received to see and learn about the people and cultures of other countries is cherished. Therefore, for Sri Lankan undergraduates SAESM is a golden opportunity to look forward to.
Conferences and summits are plenty when it comes to a discipline such as economics both locally and internationally. Yet, the difference about SAESM is its focus group and design. All in all, SAESM has grown over the years to make room for young and upcoming economists to spread their wings in making South Asia a better region harnessing prosperity, warmth and collaboration.