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SL to push for road connectivity with India

Sri Lanka is keen to commence operations on linking the country’s road network with that of India, the Chairman of the National Transport Commission, Prof. Amal Kumarage, said.

Addressing the First South Asia Economic Summit last week, he said that the government would make its proposals to India when the region’s transport ministers meet later this year to take forward the declaration coming out of the 15th SAARC Leaders’ Summit to boost the regions connectivity through transport.

"The government of Sri Lanka will also try to initiate ferry services between the two countries which will be discussed bilaterally when the ministers meet," he said.

The intra regional trading costs are higher than any other region and it has been pointed out many research studies that this is because transport costs, as much as 13 to 14 percent, were higher than the tariffs.

In the 14th SAARC Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi, 2004, it was decided to implement the proposals of an extensive study, SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS), but to date nothing tangible has come of it.

The SAARC leaders declared in Colombo that the regions official institute will move ahead from a deliberation stage to an implementation stage, and economists at the South Asia Summit were hopeful that decades of study will finally be put to fruitful use.

The numerous studies on regional transportation showed that the least developed countries in the region and the impoverished regions within the countries, located on the borders, had to be provided linkages if they were to experience any meaningful development.

But Prof. Kumarage said that countries needed to be mindful of the inefficiencies of their own transport infrastructure.

"In Sri Lanka, US $ 2 billion is spent on inputs to the freight transportation network annually. Of this, one third is wasted due to inefficiencies and it is bigger than the accumulations at the port and customs.

"Inputs to the airline industry amounts to about US $ 8 billion and of this, US$ 2 billion is wasted due to inefficiencies," he said.

He also urged civil society to look at transportation and trade as a single entity, rather than looking at it as separate issues.

The South Asia Economic Summit highlighted the need for a simplified visa application process because no integration would be possible if people had no access to each other.

The Summit saw the potential of immense benefits to the region through transportation connectivity and would engage the intelligence community of the region to understand why such links could not be established, before the Second South Asia Economic Summit is held in India next year.

(DD)

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