2. Seminar proceedings
3. Conclusions and recommendations
The progress made by the various bilateral or subregional economic complementation arrangements in the region in recent years brought about a significant increase in intraregional trade. This, in turn, increased the demand for means and modalities of transportation and for greater efficiency in their use.
The demand created by the economic complementation was compounded by the demand created as trade was opened up. Together, these caused major changes in the volume and the composition of trade and diversified the target markets.
With the strengthening and modernization of certain productive sectors and the creation of others, coupled with the increasing shift of exports toward markets that are more demanding in terms of product quality and have narrower profit margins, transportation and shipping have to be more efficient to be regarded as one more step in the productive process.
Likewise, because the economic integration process has gradually lowered tariffs and trade barriers, transportation costs have taken on considerable importance as a kind of built-in tariff on trade.
Therefore, optimizing transportation systems is one of the keys to maintaining the countries' competitive advantages in reciprocal trade and to gaining the region a greater share of global trade.
Measures to improve the transportation system should focus on
i) strengthening the physical infrastructure or facilities of integration, and
ii) making better use of such means as technological modernization and improved operating systems, regulating guidelines, and market organization.
Along with efforts to create a physical infrastructure for transportation to integrate the operations of the various systems and improve transportation markets through bilateral or regional agreements have taken on new importance.
The Conference of Ministers of Transportation, Communications, and Public Works gave priority to the preparation of a proposal for a Transportation Network for South American Integration.
For its part, the Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Transportation in Central America (REMITRAN) adopted resolutions aimed at executing the Central American Infrastructure Program in the nineties.
It was with these considerations in mind that the departments of Regional Development and Environment and of Economic and Social Department of the Executive Secretariat for Economic and Social Affairs, aware of the important role of the transportation system in the processes of integration and trade expansion, considered it would be useful to organize an Inter-American Seminar on Transportation Infrastructure as a Factor in Integration. This activity also accords with the lines of action of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council.
The objectives of the Seminar were decided on the basis of the elements most important to the region and therefore concentrated on the following topics: the relationship between trade and transportation, transportation and infrastructure and their evolution; technological changes in transportation; and organizational changes arising from by new sectoral or corporative policies in world transportation and environmental impact.
The main objectives of the Seminar were:
· To present an overall analysis of current proposals for developing physical infrastructure of transportation, with emphasis on its potential for complementarity and its role as a factor in integration.
· To make consideration of the integration of transportation services more current by examining the progress made in the region in this regard.
· To propose a strategy and work program for carrying out the various stages required to develop infrastructure programs within the framework of integration.
· To identify and focus on the issues that should be analyzed with particular care because they constitute obstacles to efficient use of the regional transportation system.
· To provide guidelines for cooperation between regional and subregional institutions, and more effective collaboration with the countries, and to promote concerted efforts toward the shared objective of sustainable development.
Presiding over the inaugural ceremony was the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Mr. César Gaviria. After welcoming the participants, he spoke of the integration processes in the region and the importance of developing infrastructure as a "vital element in our countries' growth," and said that he hoped the Seminar would be able to make "an important contribution to the development of national and regional policies that give the role of transportation infrastructure in the process of integration of this hemisphere."
The Seminar discussed four main topics:
· The integration of transportation;
· The transportation services;
· Development and financing of the transportation infrastructure; and
· Evaluation of the environmental impact and natural hazards impact on transportation infrastructure projects.
Appendix 2 contains the Seminar's agenda.
At the final session, the conclusions and recommendations prepared by the secretaries of each session were examined.
In attendance were 46 professionals, high-level technical officials of the ministries of public works and transportation in the countries of the region and representatives of various integration organizations and agreements, of subregional, regional and international organizations, and of the Specialized Conferences. The list of participants appears as Appendix 3.
Following are the conclusions and recommendations that emerged from the discussions and from the final session, grouped according to the four main topics mentioned above.
Integration of Transportation
· The Transportation Network for South America, suffers at present from infrastructure deficiencies on certain stretches and at critical points along all the transportation corridors. This impedes traffic flows and hampers the general efficiency of transportation on these corridors.
· In Central America the regional highways connect the capital cities and the major production zones with the countries' centers of consumption; they are also the corridors of access to the principal sea ports.
· One of the critical problems for connections among the Caribbean countries is their ports, because of infrastructural and operational weaknesses. This situation impairs the integration process among the CARICOM countries and their integration with the other countries of the Caribbean Basin.
· The provision of infrastructure is the most crucial element for certain landlocked countries or regions. Other critical aspects are the condition of that infrastructure and of road capacity in certain clearly defined parts of the network.
· The obstacles to improving the transportation system are very much the same throughout the region. They have to do with management, legal, and financing problems of infrastructure maintenance and the construction of certain specific stretches and critical points within the network.
· In Latin America and the Caribbean, the operational, administrative, and institutional shortcomings of the transportation system hinder efficient use of the existing physical infrastructure network (highways, ports, railroads, and shipping lanes).
· Bureaucratic red tape, uncoordinated operation of border-control agencies and an inadequate customs infrastructure often diminish or cancel out the advantages of the existing transportation infrastructure.
· Given that transportation links are part of the process of producing the goods traded, a situation in which the customs and border procedures are not functioning efficiently is untenable.
· While river and maritime transport is the most efficient means of transportation over long distances and for certain products, its potential depends on how well the ports operate and how much the services cost.
· The use of port fees as a fiscal resource introduces major distortions to the functioning of the market, and at times constitutes a quasi-tariff barrier that is incompatible with the integration processes.
The Central and South American countries should:
· Prepare an investment program, including priorities, to correct the critical points and infrastructure weaknesses in the transportation corridors.
· Give priority to the maintenance of the existing infrastructure and the modernization of the ports and customs facilities.
· Take action on the regulations system governing the operations of ports and border crossings, with a view, in particular, to applying effectively the facilitation agreements reached on various occasions.
· Standardize commercial documentation and streamline and modernize customs procedures using electronic data processing.
· Set port fees based on the costs of service and refrain from using them as a means of collecting fiscal revenues in the form of charges and fees that take the place of customs duties.
Transportation Services Market
· A number of countries in the region have made considerable progress in deregulating the transportation sector, putting infrastructure management out to bid and attracting private investment to build it.
· The private sector accounts for an increasing proportion of investment infrastructure, creation, modernization and operation.
· The general view is that to make the transportation sector more efficient and competitive, the private sector must have a role in managing it and investing in it.
The Central and South American countries should:
· Have the government perform the functions that properly pertain to it,
i.e., developing policy and regulating market conditions.
· Adapt transportation planning to present conditions, so that the different modes of transportation and the allocation of resources will be more efficient and better coordinated.
· See to it that the regulatory framework and government strategies assure free access to suppliers, thereby promoting private sector participation.
· Develop standards complementary to those governing shipping contracts and shippers' non-contractual links with third parties and with government on the following:· Market access conditions geared to preserving equal opportunities for suppliers in the regional market and to permitting the free interplay of supply and demand, with no monopolistic practices or cartels.
· Conditions that will ensure the maintenance of the market, such as rules of conduct for suppliers and rules to verify that access is preserved.
· Conditions that ensure equal treatment of and equal opportunities for suppliers.
Development and Financing of the Transportation Infrastructure
· The lack of resources available to governments for transportation infrastructure projects has led to efforts to attract private capital, whether for maintenance, rebuilding, or construction.
· The Conference of the South American Ministers of Transportation, Communications and Public Works, has devised a program scheme for developing projects to remedy infrastructure deficiencies on particular stretches and at critical points along transportation corridors that are crucial for integration.
· To finance the program, the Conference of Ministers of Transportation, Communications, and Public Works has approached the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (IBRD), but so far these overtures have not made much headway.
The Central and South American countries should:
· Give priority to the maintenance of infrastructure so as to avoid significant deterioration, thereby obviating the need to invest in replacements.
· Analyze the experiences of countries that have more experience with competitive bidding for highway construction, maintenance and operation, to serve as background for possible use by other countries.
· Promote private sector participation in the operation of ports, to make them more competitive and attract the investment they require.
· Present the Infrastructure Projects Program that was developed at the Meeting of South American Ministers of Transportation, Communications and Public Works to the IDB and the World Bank in the form of individual applications from countries or groups of countries, based on the features of the projects and conforming to the technical requirements of the financing institutions.
· For the analysis performed by the financing institutions, include technical criteria that put particular emphasis on the specific aspects of the transportation infrastructure projects that will contribute to integration.
Analysis of the Environmental Impact of Transportation Infrastructure Projects
· Environmental management is an intrinsic part of the sustainable development approach that has prevailed in the countries since the 1992 Rio Conference.
· In the case of transportation infrastructure projects, the purpose of the environmental impact study is to identify and mitigate the negative effects that their construction and/or operation can have and their vulnerability to natural hazards.
· The vast majority of the negative environmental effects are caused by the sometimes conflicting mandates and activities of government agencies.
· At the present time, financing institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (IBRD) require an environmental impact study when transportation infrastructure projects are presented.
· If the environmental impact assessment is done early in the development of a transportation infrastructure project, the costs or the project and of any necessary mitigation will be lower.
· Part of environmental management is reduction of the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure projects to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and slides.
· A significant portion of the budget of the sector is consumed in repairing the damage done by natural disasters.
The Central and South American countries should:
· Integrate public participation and make the entire project planning process transparent.
· Take conflicting relations and consensus solutions into consideration when identifying and studying the various possible locations for a project.
· Before deciding to build a transportation infrastructure project, carry on the studies necessary for the definition of a sustainable development strategy for the region it would affect.
· Assess the environmental impact at all stages of a project, starting with its identification, the feasibility studies, the execution and subsequent operation. The possible effects of traffic flows need to be examined.
· Make the natural hazards vulnerability assessment in the early stages of preparing transportation infrastructure projects and estimate the investment needed for structural mitigation of the impact of the hazards.