The private sector should come forward to invest in exploring marine resources in a bid to boost the country's gross domestic product, analysts said yesterday.
“New investment opportunities in ocean will create jobs and bring foreign currencies,” said Khurshed Alam, secretary of the marine affairs unit at the foreign ministry.
He was speaking at a roundtable on the state of the economy organised by the Board of Investment (BoI) at its office in the city.
The Bay of Bengal has huge unexplored assets that will create big business opportunities, Alam said.
Settling a longstanding India-Bangladesh maritime boundary dispute, a Hague-based international court has recently awarded Bangladesh 19,467 square kilometres out of 25,602 sq km disputed area in the Bay.
“We can explore many marine resources such as methane gas, copper, magnesium, nickel and cobalt from the seabed. We need extensive research to explore the resources,” he said in a keynote.
The seas can be used to produce renewable electricity to meet the growing demand for power, Alam said.
Presently some small fishing boats are involved in catching fishes into 25-30 miles of the Bay, he said. “They cannot go into deep sea due to a lack of big ships and technologies. Time has come to widen our reach to catch fishes that can help earn foreign currencies,” he said.
A total of 475 species of fishes are found in the sea and around 6.6 million tonnes of fishes are caught from the Bay annually. Nearly 30 million people live on fishing.
Export and import worth $60 billion take place a year using around 2,600 international ships through Chittagong and Mongla ports, Alam said.
“We have only 69 ships. Foreign ships take away $6 billon per year as rent.”
Bangladesh can increase ocean-going commercial ships to bring more foreign currencies, Alam said, adding that the country should also develop its shipbuilding and recycling industry.
Bangladesh needs to increase the number of marine academy to produce skilled manpower, said Ferdous Ara Begum, chief executive officer of Business Initiative Leading Development.
“We should conduct integrated marine surveys to identify marine resources,” she said. The government should develop strategic relationship with the neighbours, India and Myanmar, to tap the immense potential of marine resources, she said.
The government should offer low-cost loans to businesses to encourage them to invest in ocean economy, said AK Azad, president of Bangladesh Chamber of Industries.
The government may allow loans from foreign sources for the private sector, he said.
The main purpose of the roundtable is to create awareness of the immense potential of the ocean economy and encourage wide public participation in the process leading to the adoption of a roadmap on ocean economy, said Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali.
The BoI is looking for new investment opportunities in the sector, said SA Samad, its executive chairman.
He called upon the private sector to take initiative to bring foreign investment in the marine sector.
“We need to do research to realise the marine sector potential,” said Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the energy affairs adviser to the prime minister.
He asked the private sector to identify the opportunities and challenges in ocean economy.