ISLAMABAD, Aug 22 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Saturday announced a 10% reduction in port charges in order to enhance the port operational activities. He made this announcement while attending a presentation during his visit to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping here.
The Prime Minister said that port charges in Pakistan are high in the region. Trade cargo handling is sluggish while storage facilities are deficient. This, he said, impedes the flow of trade and adds to the cost of doing business.
The Prime Minister said that since the transfer of Pakistan Marine Academy to Higher Education Commission in 2004 for turning it into a university / centre of excellence has not materialized, the possibility of shifting its administrative control back to the Ministry may be examined.
He said that Gwadar Port is the port of future and must be developed as per its Master Plan, positioning it as a hub for trade and trans-shipment in the region.
Gwadar is ideally placed to serve trading needs of Central Asia, Afghanistan and western part of China. For this purpose, he added, “we need to move fast on developing communication infrastructure”.
The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Communication to expedite construction of road network from Gwadar to up country to facilitate transportation and enhance port activity.
He said that it is a matter of concern that in terms of ports and shipping, Pakistan is not competitive regionally. “We failed to build on the shipping capacity that we inherited. We are now totally dependent on foreign ships for our external trade and pay billions of dollars in freight annually”, he added.
The Prime Minister said that existing port infrastructure in some cases is under-utilized. He said the Government has been paying guaranteed returns to investors but the potential benefits have not accrued.
The Prime Minister emphasized that future investments should be planned more carefully and after doing proper need assessment and cost benefit analysis.
“Our priority should be full utilization and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. Financial viability and long term economic sustainability must be our guiding principle”, he added.
He said port authorities should evaluate and improve land usage in order to ensure that land assets are optimally utilized. He stressed that Port authorities need to become more transparent and accountable in their internal operations.
The Prime Minister said the government believes in good governance, prudent management and financial discipline in all state institutions.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan is a country with great future. “In the years to come, as economy and external trade grows, we would need port infrastructure that is futuristic, reliable, efficient and cost competitive. Side by side, we should pay more attention to re-building indigenous shipping industry”, he added.
The Prime Minister also asked the Minister for Ports and Shipping to lobby for the permanent membership of International Maritime Organization through Foreign Office as well as on his own level, following this the possibility of sending a permanent representative at the IMO headquarters would be considered.