Connectivity in South Asia: Corridor-led integration of BBIN countries mooted

Economics Times, December 18, 2020

Corridor-led economic development programmes are gaining momentum in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) and it is now time for them to join the dots.

“Given new and emerging infrastructure linkages, it is vital to advance, adapt and accelerate the use of big data and analytics to conceptualise corridor assessment and monitoring mechanisms to improve logistics quality for enhancing trade and competitiveness in the BBIN sub-region,” said Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, a leading public policy body.

He was speaking at a Webinar held on Wednesday based on a Discussion Paper: Transforming Logistics Performance in BBIN Countries. Towards creating lasting legacy, this has recently been published by CUTS under its project on multi-modal connectivity in the BBIN sub-region, which is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom with the Asian Development Bank as its knowledge partner.

Authored by Pritam Banerjee, an independent trade and logistics expert, it discusses the concept of freight fluidity and the fluidity of specific economic corridors that could be adopted for future research.

Delivering his presentation, Pritam Banerjee underlined that end-to-end analysis of a corridor using objective data is rare in the BBIN context. He made a case for this concept by arguing that while the current approaches used in the assessment of logistics quality in BBIN countries have added great value in identifying problems and get a much better visibility of issues, over-used methodologies have diminishing returns after a point in terms of providing more holistic or newer insights.

Some borders or corridors have been studied multiple times in the last decade or so, for example the Benapole-Petrapole border between India and Bangladesh, but substantial challenges are still evident that inhibits this corridor’s logistics quality.

He further stressed that the concept could potentially cover a large number of variables for parameters such as connectivity and transit time, resilience, reliability and costs that impact logistics quality and efficiency.

For that, partnership between logisticians in BBIN countries moderated by national or regional business associations could create the necessary network required on the ground linking devices with transport assets.

Cecile Fruman, Director, Regional Integration and Engagement, South Asia, The World Bank Group, said that they are fully behind the concept of corridor-wide assessments by leveraging big data and new technologies.

Another issue is institutional mechanisms for corridor monitoring. The Northern Corridor in Kenya and the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organisation are successful examples in corridor monitoring because they have benefited from strong institutional support and frameworks.

Speaking on the occasion, Jan Hoffmann, Chief, Trade Logistics Branch, Division on Technology and Logistics of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, reflected on the present logistics conditions in the BBIN countries, and argued that the demand for digitisation and connectivity will only increase.

According to Kuancheng Huang, Senior Transport Specialist, Transport Sector Group, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of the Asian Development Bank, with multi-modal logistics parks private sector participation in transport connectivity will increase. End-to-end real data can be helpful to evaluate the performance of a corridor and to improve freight fluidity.

“Nowadays, tracing technologies as well as data analytics are relatively mature, such as that the ADB has for understanding the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, by QR code, app, and cloud platform. Thus, a pilot test for corridor fluidity assessment will not cost much. The real challenge is how we coordinate the supply chain players to jointly identify the real bottlenecks and then take actions upon them,” he argued.
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