Fo­cus on Busi­ness and Eco­nomic In­te­gra­tion

Mr Ravi Ramprasad Ed­i­tor-in-chief & Pub­lisher Mar­itime Gate­way, In­dia

Maritime Gateway - - Contents -

We are grate­ful to the Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple's Repub­lic of Bangladesh for ac­cept­ing and con­ven­ing the se­cond South Asia Mar­itime and Lo­gis­tics Fo­rum here in Dhaka. I would like to ex­press my most sin­cere grat­i­tude to H.E. Sheikh Hasina, MP, Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple's Repub­lic of Bangladesh, for her gra­cious pres­ence in this open­ing cer­e­mony. My spe­cial thanks to all the honourable min­is­ters for grac­ing the oc­ca­sion.

The First South Asia Mar­itime and Lo­gis­tics Fo­rum was or­gan­ised in Septem­ber 2017. It was for the first time stake­hold­ers of mar­itime sec­tor of

South Asian coun­tries had an op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether on to one plat­form to dis­cuss key is­sues re­lated to in­tra-re­gional trade and mar­itime con­nec­tiv­ity. Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of that in­au­gu­ral con­fer­ence, it was agreed that fo­rum should be con­vened again. With Min­istry of Ship­ping, Gov­ern­ment of Bangladesh of­fer­ing to host the meet­ing, all of us could meet again in Dhaka.

Bangladesh has be­come one of Asia’s most re­mark­able suc­cess sto­ries in re­cent years with GDP growth for FY2017-18 be­ing the high­est with 7.86 per cent. Bangladesh is mak­ing a lot of in­vest­ment into strength­en­ing mar­itime and lo­gis­tics in­fra­struc­ture, as the coun­try is flex­ing its ca­pac­ity to use its nat­u­ral geo­graphic lo­ca­tion and trans­form into a “gate­way and con­nec­tiv­ity hub” be­tween South Asia and South­east Asia.

Though South Asia holds a huge po­ten­tial, un­for­tu­nately it re­mains un­tapped. South Asia’s in­tra-re­gional trade is the low­est in the world restrict­ing the re­gion’s eco­nomic prom­ise. There is an ur­gent need for the na­tions to fo­cus on busi­ness and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion with each other. If the ex­ist­ing trade bar­ri­ers are elim­i­nated fa­cil­i­tat­ing reg­u­lated trade flow, South Asia’s re­gional trade vol­ume could grow from the ex­ist­ing $23 bil­lion to $67 bil­lion.

An­other chal­lenge we face in this re­gion is that many South Asian coun­tries trade on bet­ter terms with dis­tant economies than with their own neigh­bors.

South Asia’s key chal­lenges in­clude high trade costs and in­vest­ment re­stric­tions, lim­ited trans­port con­nec­tiv­ity, lo­gis­tics and reg­u­la­tory im­ped­i­ments, pol­icy de­ci­sions gov­erned by pol­i­tics rather than eco­nom­ics, lack of trust ini­tia­tives, rel­a­tive asym­me­try in size among South Asian na­tions and volatile geo-po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and se­cu­rity con­cerns. These chal­lenges can be over­come only by more busi­ness and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple of in­tra-re­gional co­or­di­na­tion is coastal ship­ping be­tween Bangladesh and In­dia.

The re­cent de­ci­sion of Gov­ern­ment of Bangladesh to al­low use of Chat­togram and Mongla Ports for the move­ment of goods to and from In­dia is com­mend­able. This will cre­ate fastest pos­si­ble ac­cess to a port from north­east In­dia and will help in­crease con­nec­tiv­ity in that re­gion.

Con­tainer ship­ping lines and port op­er­a­tors in In­dia are seek­ing per­mis­sion for trans­ship­ment of Bangladesh cargo from In­dian ports. This would re­duce long de­lays and sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional costs. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also look­ing at coastal ship­ping op­tions. A re­cent sur­vey among stake­hold­ers in Bangladesh has re­vealed the be­low men­tioned pri­or­i­ties be­fore gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor to build an ef­fi­cient and smart sup­ply chain: Ur­gent need to in­crease port ca­pac­i­ties to meet the grow­ing de­mand of cargo

Port con­nec­tiv­ity to be es­tab­lished for seam­less and smooth move­ment of cargo – ei­ther through road or rail

Sim­pli­fied cus­toms reg­u­la­tions: Faster pro­cesses need to be im­ple­mented. Doc­u­men­ta­tion to be sim­pli­fied. Tech­nol­ogy to be en­gaged which can be a game changer. Favourable gov­ern­ment poli­cies to cre­ate bet­ter ecosys­tem and ease of do­ing busi­ness Mech­a­niza­tion of cargo han­dling at ports and ter­mi­nals to im­prove the pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency

De­ploy­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies like on­line plat­forms, Block chain, Cloud sys­tems

Fo­rum such as this pro­vides a valu­able op­por­tu­nity for in­vestors, ser­vice providers, end cus­tomers, in­dus­try spe­cial­ists and de­ci­sion­mak­ers to share ex­pe­ri­ences. I am grate­ful to the many ex­perts from gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try who have come to share their knowl­edge at this fo­rum.

ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF & PUB­LISHER, MAR­ITIME GATE­WAY, IN­DIA

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