Promoting integration: Land ports aimed at higher regional trade to cost Rs22b

First sketch of the project has been shared by the Land Port Authority.


Our Correspondent July 16, 2014

ISLAMABAD:


The government has estimated the cost of setting up three land ports along the border with Afghanistan and India at over Rs22 billion – a project which is a prerequisite for boosting trade among regional countries.


The first sketch created by the Land Port Authority (LPA), which has been tasked with overseeing construction of the three ports, was presented to a steering committee set up to oversee the Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS) project.

Federal Board of Revenue Chairman Tariq Bajwa gave a detailed presentation on the progress made so far pertaining to establishing the land ports at Torkham, Chaman and Wagah under ITTMS.

He said initial estimate suggested that the cost of the project would be around Rs22.1 billion, of which Rs20.2 billion would be required in foreign currency, while Rs1.9 billion would be needed in local currency.



Bajwa added the project would be completed in three years and the executing agency would be LPA.

PC-I of the project is based on the feasibility report prepared by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

This new-found interest in land ports by the government comes in the wake of awareness that any future trade with India would not materialise if there is a lack of advanced network of land ports. It has planned to set up four ports, of which three will be established in the first phase.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is also chairman of the steering committee, said trade facilitation measures required realistic timeframes including long-term implications. He sought support of all stakeholders before pushing ahead with the plan.

He directed the FBR chairman to present first draft of PC-I by August 21 for consideration and approval by the steering committee.

According to Bajwa, the project has been included in the Public Sector Development Programme 2014-15 and the final draft of PC-I is about to be completed.

He informed the meeting participants that the sub-committee had visited the three sites and layout plan for the border-crossing points had been prepared and they were waiting for the ADB review mission’s report. After submission of the report, the stakeholders’ consensus on the layout design will be taken.

The finance minister directed members of the sub-committee that management structure of the project should be developed after taking into account the previous experiences of PSDP-funded projects including those implemented by the FBR and there should be adequate delegation of powers for running this project.

“LPA should oversee the construction, management and maintenance of the integrated border crossing points and future extension,” added Dar.

He said LPA should act as a common platform for all regulatory agencies including customs, immigration, terminal operator, security, quarantine, banks, shipping agencies and freight forwarders.

He asked the sub-committee to follow administration models followed around the world in countries like Singapore, India and Bangladesh. The minister further instructed that LPA should be made a self-sustaining entity, with maximum operational and financial autonomy.

The meeting was also attended by Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security.  Aziz said there should be more control over border areas. “Unless there was stringent control over border areas, the security situation in the country will not improve.”

He said different IT options like biometric and computerised immigration system should be introduced to keep a thorough check on border crossing. Furthermore, the border security force should be given special assistance and training to control the situation on the borders, he added.

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir said the setting up of the modern land ports with neighbouring countries would enhance regional trade and cooperation. He pointed out that in future more border crossing points would be set up in order to curb smuggling.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.

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