Investors can largely be benefited by harnessing huge resources hidden in the country's bay-based blue economy, experts observed at a business session on Sunday.
Terming the area largely untapped due to unavailability of technology and investment, they said the investors with their technical knowhow and skills can help unlock the potential in a massive way.
By doing so, the investors can also contribute to the economy by creating more jobs, expanding the country's export basket to help the nation overcome many challenges that it is going to face after complete graduation from the LDC (least developed country) category, which is due in 2026.
But businesses suggested that the government should facilitate businesses in the blue economy by delivering all the required services under one umbrella.
The observations and suggestions came at a business session on Blue Economy, Discover the Future held at a city hotel on the sideline of the two-day-long International Investment Summit 2021 (IIS 2021 Bangladesh).
Member of the general economic division under the Ministry of Planning Dr Md Kawser Ahmed moderated the discussion where Foreign Affairs Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen was present as chairperson.
Presenting a keynote paper, Secretary of the Maritime Affairs Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Md Khurshid Alam said Bangladesh got 19,467 square kilometers of highly resourceful area in the Bay after winning the maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar and India.
The ocean economic zone of Bangladesh is equal to 81 per cent of the mainland and 150,000 ships are transporting goods through the ocean all over the world, which is worth of US$ 9.0 billion, he added.
But Bangladesh owns only 70 ships although some 74 per cent of containers are used in Asia which opens another wing of investment opportunity for the country as the total trade is growing at a rate of 15 per cent every year, meaning the demand of containers will keep going up, he said.
Although there are several seaports in Bangladesh, they are not suitable for mother vessels.
In such a situation, the completion of Matarbari deep sea port will help exploit the potential of blue economy, he said.
Mr Alam, also a retired rear admiral, said the total sea area of Bangladesh is 664 kilometers, but fish is harvested only in 60 kilometers.
Therefore, Bangladesh's share in global fish production is limited to only 2.6 per cent whereas China alone supplies 61 per cent of the world's fish.
"This is another highly potential area for investors," he said.
Talking about the mineral resources, he said despite having sea frontier, there is still a huge amount of offshore oil and gas beyond reach.
"Although several plans have been taken in this regard, it has not come to light. In contrast, Myanmar has already started extracting mineral resources from the near the sea block of Bangladesh," he added.
Not only fish or mineral resources, rather Ocean Economy may change the whole picture of the economy of Bangladesh.
By utilising the marine resources, various industries including tourism, shipbuilding, deep sea fishing, container, medicine, cosmetics industry can be developed, according to him.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the government is keen to offer a conducive, friendly and safe environment for investment in various sectors in Bangladesh.
Hailing BIDA's one stop services, he said the concern of gaps and weaknesses in some areas as mentioned by some businesses will be relegated. "In future, you will not find this type of weaknesses," he said.
There are plenty of untapped opportunities as the deep sea fishing capacities only reached only around 60 nautical miles.
"I would like to request you to emphasise mariculture in the coastal areas," he said.
Citing statistics of WTO, he said the global market of shipbuilding industry reached US$1600 billion.
"If we can capture 1.0 per cent share, it would be around US$16 billion," he added.
Despite the growing demand, Bangladeshi shipbuilding industry did not grow to the expected level. Recently, the government introduced the Shipbuilding Development Policy 2020 aiming to earn at least US$ 4 billion annually from ship exports from the year of 2021 with creating a facilitating climate for backward industries, he informed.
Chairman of Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners' Association Azam J Chowdhury said Bangladesh needs to have technologies and resources to unlock the potentials hidden in the blue economy.
The more tie-ups of the global companies with Bangladeshi firms can play an instrumental role to this effect, he said.
Former president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh Taufiq Uddin Ahmed suggested that the government bring all the services required in tour operations under one umbrella to encourage more leisure trips of international tourists here.
Editor & Publisher : Md. Motiur Rahman
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