Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to launch the World Bank Book entitled: “Connecting Landlocked Developing Countries to Markets – Trade Corridors in the 21st Century”. Let me express my sincere thanks to the World Bank for this important publication, which represents a major contribution to ongoing efforts of the United Nations, in particular my Office, to address specific vulnerabilities faced by landlocked developing countries, connected to their lack of territorial access to the sea and their remoteness and isolation from the world markets.
The World Bank has always been supportive to the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action through its financial and technical contribution to infrastructure projects, but also through dissemination of knowledge. I strongly advise policy makers of landlocked developing and transit countries, development partners, including the UN system, the business community and academia, to read the book and identify key actions to be implemented.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to recall that through the Almaty Programme of Action, landlocked developing countries have set up an over-arching goal of forging partnerships to overcome the special problems by implementing the following five priority policy areas: a) review their transport regulatory frameworks and establishing regional transport corridors; b) develop multimodal networks (rail, road, air, and pipeline infrastructure projects); c) implement international conventions and instruments that facilitate transit trade; d) international community providing technical support, encouraging foreign direct investment and increasing official development assistance; e) improving monitoring of the implementation of transit instruments. Through the present book, the 5 priority areas are very well captured. The book highlights the commendable efforts that have been undertaken in the five priority areas, critical challenges faced by landlocked developing countries and recommends policy actions that are needed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention on three important aspects for the effective implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action: investing in infrastructure, promoting development corridors and regional integration, implementing international and transit agreements.
Investing in infrastructure:
The closer a landlocked country is to the sea, the more it can profit from relatively cheap transport costs. However, if a navigable inland waterway connects the landlocked country with the sea, isolation becomes already much less an issue. And if the necessary infrastructure, i.e. roads, railways, ports, is in place, geographical remoteness is further reduced. This, on the other hand, requires cooperation with the transit country. It also requires a coordinated approach to infrastructure development. An illustration of insufficiently coordinated infrastructure development was for a long time the Parana River basin in Paraguay. Only once an agreement was signed within Mercosur in the 1990s, which made the use of the inland waterway for barge transport easier, could some of the agricultural potential of landlocked Paraguay be exploited, in particular export of soybeans, meat, flour, vegetable oils and various grains. Landlocked between Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, Paraguay relies on its “ Great River”, the Parana, for vast hydroelectric power resources as well as access to the Atlantic Ocean and a number of the region`s large cities.In Africa,with the establishment of road funds in 27 African countries, increased efforts have been made to maintain existing roads and expand infrastructure. Several countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia have been involved in the construction of dry ports. In Asia, amendments to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network resulted in road connectivity to all landlocked countries in the Asian region. The South American landlocked developing countries are equally active in linking their rail and road systems to inter-oceanic routes.
Promoting development corridors and regional integration:
Transits are done the most easily and at the lowest costs for both landlocked and transit countries in an integrated environment. If goods can move freely and unhampered by administrative or customs delays, if investment decisions are taken in common perspective, the well-being of landlocked and transit countries is increased and costs are lowered. Improvements in transport and transit facilities and an increased traffic volume will eventually benefit coastal as well as landlocked countries. Once this has been recognized, it may well encourage and foster collaboration between the two partners.
Many countries and regions are, today, in the process of building or planning transit or access corridors. Such initiatives have been taken more or less successfully by landlocked and transit countries on all continents, ranging from pan-European to Bi-Oceanic Corridors in South America to the revival of the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia. Over the past years, more and more integrated projects have emerged in many countries and most of them are based on two distinct, but related approaches. They are led by, or are created within the framework of a regional integration project. Or, they are rooted in the establishment of a development corridor which, apart from facilitating transport, encourages social and economic development and the alleviation of rural poverty in the area it crosses.
Establishing a corridor can be a great opportunity for both the landlocked and transit country. It can be the expression of a commitment to improve trade within a region or sub-region and to improve access for the whole region`s goods to world markets. A prosperous region will guarantee higher growth potential to all its countries. Each transit corridor requires an extensive marketing strategy to attract capital and transit traffic. Landlocked developing countries should realize that they could play a role in a sub-region and use this strategic location. They can take an active role in proposing and working on transit corridor planning. On the other hand, a transit or coastal country can use its potential to attract investment and customers, and increase its own and the region`s growth potential. A corridor systematically creates spillover effects which provide opportunities for a whole region. It’s a win-win investment for Landlocked as well as transit countries.
Implementing international and transit agreements:
Another challenge facing landlocked developing countries is that trade competitiveness is further reduced by “transit charges” over which they do not have direct control, such as port charges, road tolls, forwarding fees, customs duties or transport quotas restrictions on traffic from the landlocked country to the coastal neighbor that may be set out in bilateral or multilateral agreements with the transit country or countries.
Also, many transit agreements are negotiated on a bilateral basis, and are in most cases for a limited period of time. This can lead to an uncertainty, which is especially harmful to business interests. Landlocked countries may depend on one or several transit countries or may have several options to access ports via roads, inland waterways or railways. Certain agreements also set permit quotas, environmental restrictions and levies or road charges. This gives a sound notion of how complicated the situation can be for landlocked countries.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
The Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States will continue to strengthen its efforts to assist landlocked developing countries through increased mobilization of international and United Nations system-wide support and awareness-raising activities. A milestone has been reached with the endorsement of the final text of the multilateral agreement on the establishment of the International Think Tank for landlocked developing countries at the Ninth Annual Ministerial Meeting of Landlocked Developing Countries held in New York on 24 September 2010. The think tank will provide a centre of excellence for high quality research and policy advice and will contribute to further strengthening of the analytical capacities of landlocked developing countries. I invite the World Bank and other development partners to render full support and technical assistance to the newly established institution for its effective operationalization.
In the recent past, we have witnessed tangible results achieved in the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action. In particular, the successful implementation of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks has promoted the development of transport infrastructure, increased financing from international banks and donors, and enhanced collaboration with the private sector. To enable landlocked developing countries in Africa reap similar benefits, concerted efforts are under way by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission and my Office to elaborate and conclude an intergovernmental agreement on the Trans-African Highway.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that while emphasizing on the importance of investing in infrastructure, other aspects of regulatory and operational procedures for international transit transport are equally important. In this context, the recommendations made by the authors in the four areas of: a) improving the transit regime; b) reforming transport market regulation; c) developing trust and cooperation; and d) monitoring corridor performance are indeed very useful. Timely implementation of these recommendations will enable landlocked and transit developing countries not only to use existing transit facilities more efficiently but it will open up greater opportunities for the coordinated development of transit transport infrastructure.
Once again, I thank you for your participation and your attention.