FE Editrorial : Please leave ‘minor’ ports alone
On the face of it, recommendations submitted in the first week of August by the committee headed by Vijay Chhibber, ministry of shipping, look liberal. For instance, on standardising port operations, the committee suggests delegating power for greater flexibility, clarity and operational freedom in the managements of major ports. The problem is that the Centre doesn’t have too great a record on implementing policy in a consistent way. To take one example, the Centre gave security clearance to a consortium that includes a Chinese port operator to bid for terminals at Paradip Port in Orissa but denied permission to another group that includes a Hong Kong (now a part of China) company. Also, let’s consider why captive ports (like the one belonging to RIL in Gujarat) are not pressing on the liberalisation argument to convert to general use, whereby they could charge other companies to use their facilities. What they fear is that such a step would bring a bunchload of bureaucrats and customs inspectors riding their operations. Finally, when ports and developers are outside the ambit of a central regulator, they have operational flexibility as well as freedom in fixing tariffs. When choosing between Kandla (major port) and Mundra (minor port), why did Maruti Suzuki decide on the latter? Because with the latter, it could rely on timely infrastructure upgrades and negotiate on prices at a market-updated level. Bottomline: if the minor ports look like they are taking good care of themselves without government intervention, why must the Centre interfere anyway?
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