The South Asian Bureau of Economic Research (SABER) was built on the foundations of the success of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research (EABER). Launched in 2008, it has established a major forum through an initiative of the Australian National University (ANU) in Australia for quality economic research focused on South Asia and economic interaction between South and East Asia. It encompasses more than 20 leading research and policy institutions in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan and links to the established network of institutes in East Asia through the project in Australia. It engages top researchers, senior officials and policy advisors in the research and dialogue it promotes.

The SABER initiative is supported by the Australian government, through both the Australian Research Council (ARC), AusAid, and the ANU, through the Crawford School of Economics and Government. The ANU has mobilized initial funding of A$5 million to support this large international program of research and policy dialogue on issues of central importance to economic and political relationships within India and South Asia in their broader Asian setting.

SABER has already begun to provide research support to connect researchers and policy makers, at an intra and interregional level, and construct venues where researchers and policy makers can come together to discuss issues vital to economic development throughout Asia.

The SABER initiative was formally launched with the successful completion of the first major conference in New Delhi on 3-4 April of 2008. This meeting was co-hosted with the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), one of India’s foremost economic think-tanks. This was the first such trans-regional conference of its kind. The Project has attracted high level attention in both India and throughout South Asia, with the former Indian Foreign Minister (now Finance Minister) Mukherjee warmly endorsing the initiative in discussions with its principals on his visit to Canberra in 2008.

SABER positions intellectual resources and institutions in a useful role in the process of intellectual discussion and policy design for regional economic integration. The initial phase has made a significant contribution to mainstreaming South Asia in Australian foreign economic and political thinking about trans-regional developments as well as developed a solid base for collaborative, co-owned research initiatives in South and East Asia.

A large workshop was held in Mumbai in November 2008 and involved the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) through the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR). There was a major conference on financial issues and the crisis in Beijing in May involving East and South Asian researchers and policymakers and hosted by the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Science. The next major conference is to be held on June 29 and 30 on Efficiency of Economic Policy Formation, Development and Implementation in Key South Asian Economies and is hosted by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in New Delhi.

A major conference will follow in Australia in February 2010. Among the issues up for discussion at the Canberra meeting are structural reform policies, alternative strategies for economic integration, financial and macroeconomic issues in Asia’s integration. Issues on the future research agenda include: federalism and regional integration; trade agreements and regional integration; logistics and transactions costs in the region; climate change; energy security; foreign investment; and food security.

Programs and Institutes
With the rapid development of South Asian economies a number of research institutions have made notable contribution to the application and understanding of economic developments and their impact on policy.