Addressing Pakistan's blue economy policy challenges vital to unlock true potentialBreaking

April 26, 2024

 Addressing governance and policy challenges in Pakistan's blue economy sector is vital to unlock its potential. Reforms in leadership, policy coherence, regulations, and infrastructure management can enable Pakistan to harness its maritime resources for sustainable economic growth and national progress. In an interview with WealthPK, Jawad Akhtar, Senior Consultant of Marine Public Policy and Advisor of Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, said the key maritime institutions in Pakistan, such as ports and shipping authorities, needed an appropriate leadership for effective governance. The expert highlighted concerns about appointing individuals without relevant expertise, which may lead to ineffective management and decision-making. He emphasized that the leaders in these positions should possess a thorough understanding of ports and shipping operations to ensure optimal utilization of resources and infrastructure.

He added, “Lack of synchronization and consistency in policies at the national level has been a significant challenge. Three years ago, a policy was introduced, promising incentives and tax relief for shipping. However, when the finance bill was passed, the government imposed 17% to 18% taxes, again leading to frequent changes in policies and discouraging investors from engaging in the sector.” “The expert highlighted the mismanagement and neglect of fishing harbours, such as Korangi and Pasni, leading to their deterioration and closure. In case of Korangi Fish Harbor, there is no chairman for the past two years. Historically, this harbour was established for deep-sea fishing operations as per European standards in preparation, preservation, and export. Substantial funding has been allocated but it has not been utilized effectively due to the absence of leadership,” Jawad lamented.

“Similarly, Pasni Fish Harbour remains non-operational for the past 12 years. Forty percent of the grant provided by the Japanese government has been spent on salaries, while there have been instances of misappropriation of funds by certain officials. “The Government of Balochistan should nominate a competent project director along with competent senior engineers possessing know-how of coastal and marine dynamics,” he suggested. Despite potential offshore resources, such as oil and gas, the exploration efforts have been hampered by bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of ownership by the relevant authorities.

Citing an example, the expert said three years ago, a Chinese vessel was brought in by the navy to conduct a comprehensive topographic survey of offshore resources, encompassing wind, oil, and gas reserves. However, following the completion of the survey, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs failed to assert any ownership over the findings. Consequently, the survey data was left unutilized without any subsequent follow-up or detailed study initiated to date. Sharing concerns, Jawad said, “Shipbreaking falls under the provincial jurisdiction, yet federal policies hinder its facilitation. The global trends are shifting towards green shipyards due to environmental concerns, exemplified by Bangladesh's inaugural green shipyard in Chittagong.”

He said neglecting shipbreaking as an industry could disrupt downstream sectors like fan manufacturing in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, and Sialkot which heavily relied on ship spare parts. Recognizing shipbreaking as a legitimate industry is crucial to prevent adverse impacts on related sectors. A policy was formulated to establish a ship maintenance yard in Gwadar, which received approval three years ago. However, the project has yet to be implemented. Jawad said security threats and smuggling had undermined the operations and investment potential of Gwadar Port. The expert highlighted the need for coordinated security measures and legitimate economic opportunities to ensure the port's safety and viability within the broader context of CPEC.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan (INP)