Untapped opportunities in blue economy:
- So far, Bangladesh penetrated about 12% of the total fishing zone in deep sea.
- Arranging trips for international cruise liners requires permissions from scores of government agencies
- An integral approach to sustainable use of marine resources is needed
- Business owners call for
- Policies conducive to business
- Abolition of laws that hinders public sector participation
- Subsidy for fuel
- Long term loan facility with reasonable interest
- Rationalisation of corporate tax for local and foreign investors
The government needs to develop simpler policies and easily accessible services to attract local and foreign investments to tap into the blue economy opportunities in the Bay of Bengal, said experts and stakeholders in a discussion.
"We have to make policies which are conducive to business. We have laws which dictate that goods bought with government funds must be carried by government vessels. I think this is contradictory to the policies of the incumbent government of Bangladesh. We need to amend such laws to ensure private sector's participation along with public enterprises," said Azam J Chowdhury, chairman of Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners' Association, at the session titled "Blue Economy: Discover the Future" in the International Investment Summit 2021 on Sunday.
"The vast resources of blue economy have mostly remained untapped. We are benefitting ourselves from only a fraction of it. We will need an integral approach to ensure sustainable use of these resources in various industries," said Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, who was the chief guest at the programme organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) at hotel Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden.
"The harsh reality is that Bangladesh is still far away from realising its potential in deep sea fishing. So far, we have only penetrated about 12% of the total fishing zone. That means 88% area is still untapped," said Momen.
"The global shipbuilding market size is around $600 billion, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). If only 1% of that market is captured by Bangladesh, it will be worth $6 billion," he continued.
"In spite of the existing demand, Bangladesh shipbuilding industry has not flourished to the expected level," he added.
While presenting the keynote paper at the event, Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary Rear Admiral Md Khurshed Alam, said, "The blue economy can change the whole picture of the economy of Bangladesh – not only the part involving fish or mineral resources. By utilising marine resources, various industries, including tourism, shipbuilding, deep sea fishing, container, medicine, and cosmetic industries, can be developed."
He said the marine economic zone of Bangladesh is equal to 81% of the mainland.
Bangladesh was awarded an additional 19,467 square kilometres of area in the Bay of Bengal in 2014, but it has not been able to realise its full potential to develop a blue economy yet, said the experts.
Tawfiq Rahman, general secretary of Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Bangladesh Chapter, who arranged the first ever trip by an international cruise liner in Bangladesh in 2017, said, "We had to take permission from more than 40 government agencies and ministries to arrange the trip. It is very tough for an individual entrepreneur to obtain so many permissions."
He urged the authorities concerned to make a one-stop solution centre to facilitate arranging such tours, which will make maritime tourism stronger.
The speakers at the seminar urged the government to eliminate obstacles in operating businesses to encourage private and foreign investments in various sub sectors of the blue economy, including shipping, ship-building, tourism and industrial fishing.
Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Association President Nurul Qayyum Khan said it is vital to develop technology, skilled manpower, joint venture for fisheries survey, and public-private partnership projects for tuna fishing to attract local and foreign investment in fisheries resources of Bay of Bengal.
Besides, subsidy for fuel, long term loan facility with reasonable interest and rationalisation of corporate tax for local and foreign investors is also necessary in this regard, he added.