So far this century South Asia has enjoyed the second-highest economic growth in the world (close to 7 percent average annual rate since 2000), and increasing international trade has played an important role.
But the region is still a small player in world trade, partly because shipping a container into or out of South Asia is relatively expensive and slow.
According to the World Bank report, increasing the competitiveness of South Asia’s exports will require an improvement in the performance of its container ports, as over three quarters of the region’s trade is transported through ports.
Overall South Asia had improved the performance of its container ports in the decade after 2000, but still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. South Asia has reduced the gap with East Asia, but some ports in India and Bangladesh took more than three times longer to turn around a container ship than the world’s most competitive ports – Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.
The report proposes a three-pronged approach to improve the performance of container ports: (i) Encourage private sector participation within a well-regulated and administered landlord port model; (ii) strengthen the governance of port authority boards; and (iii) promote competition between and within ports, in part through transparent and competitive concession bidding.