Despite huge potential, the opportunity to move the economy forward through the development of the blue economy is not being used due to a lack of proper initiatives and coordination, experts say.
During a consultative policy dialogue organised by the General Economics Department of the Planning Commission on Saturday, they also pointed out that one out of every six new works created in the United States is centred on the sea. Bangladesh's competitors in the world market, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, depend on the sea for more than a quarter of their economies. Neighbouring India and Myanmar have also come a long way in using maritime resources.
They pointed out that there is an opportunity to increase the size of the blue economy in Bangladesh to 4% of the GDP.
Although the Blue Economy Cell was formed in 2017 under the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources, it did not establish coordination between the 17 ministries and 12 agencies involved.
In this situation, experts called for the formation of a separate ministry or authority to utilise the potential of the economy around the sea.
Presenting the keynote at the event "Institutionalisation of the blue economy in Bangladesh: Problem, prospect and action", Dr Kawser Ahmed, member of General Economics Division (GED) at the Bangladesh Planning Commission said, "Australia added $100 billion to its GDP using marine resources."
He also said Bangladesh has huge potential in a number of sectors including tourism, transportation, gas extraction and fish extraction through the development of maritime economy.
"The coordination was not being ensured as various ministries and agencies of the government were carrying out different responsibilities of Blue Economy," he added, demanding the establishment of a separate ministry, department or agency for the maritime economy.
Planning Secretary Pradeep Ranjan Chakraborty, who presided over the event, said the environment and maritime economy have been given special importance in the government's medium and long term development plans.
He said that 83 projects under the Annual Development Program (ADP) would help achieve the goals of the Centennial Delta Plan.
"The prime minister has given special emphasis on the Blue Economy," he added.
Presenting another article at the event, Aminul Arifeen, of UNDP Dhaka Office, said that 30% of Thailand's economy, 28% of Indonesia and 23% of Malaysia come from the sea. Even 4% of India's economy is dependent on the sea. Neighbouring Myanmar's maritime economy is about 2% of GDP. It is also possible to increase the GDP of Bangladesh from sea resources by 4%.
He said that it is possible to increase the marine fisheries sector by 22%, tourism by 25%, shipbuilding and shipbreaking industry by 9%, transport sector by 22%, energy sector by 19% and mineral resources by 3%.
Professor Tapan Kumar Dey, Vice President, Bangladesh Geology Society, said that installations are being constructed by occupying different areas along the coast of Bangladesh. He demanded strict laws be enacted to prevent this.
Zakir Hossain, additional secretary of the Blue Economy Cell of the Department of Mineral Resources, said that although the Blue Economy Cell was formed in 2017, no full-fledged body has been formed yet. He also said that 17 other ministries were not giving importance to the temporary body.
Petrobangla chairman Nazmul Ahsan said no exploration had been carried out in the 22 of the 26 blocks after the demarcation of maritime boundaries with India and Myanmar.
Badrul Imam, a former teacher at Dhaka University, said that Myanmar has found and extracted a lot of gas by exploring the sea after the sea border demarcation with Bangladesh. He expressed frustration that the exploration had not started in 10 years.
Dr Ahmed Kaikaus, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Zuena Aziz, chief coordinator (SDG Affairs), Prime Minister's Office was present at the event.