Geographical analysis of landlocked states Essay

The discipline of geography has many uses. It enables individuals to know the basic features of the world in which they live, the great variety of lands and peoples, the complex associations and interrelations of man with resources and nature, the problems faced by inhabitants of other countries, regions and states. This paper studies the geographical classifications, the challenges that landlocked states pose for state function, growth in order to understand the spatial distribution of population which is helpful in examining many diverse geographic problems of landlocked states, its economic development issue and how these challenges are overcome.

Landlocked states were defined as states without oceanic coastline or access to the ocean through water bodies such as the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, or the Persian Gulf; in short land-lockedness which is one characteristic of some states, is the complete absence of a seacoast. A state was defined as a political unit listed as a state by the data source. There are countries with very short coastlines but at least they do have some sovereign territory along the sea that they can utilize constructively.  In order to gain access to the sea, they must pass through one or more States called Transit States. The term transit state is defined as any Contracting state with or without a seacoast, situated between a landlocked State and the sea, through whose territory traffic in transit passes. Those land-locked States closest to the sea are located mostly in Europe, smallest of all the continents and the one with the best circulation system. Some landlocked countries have landlocked neighbors, which might seem to be something of an asset, but the existence of more than one State between the landlocked State and the sea merely complicates the situation. Examples of landlocked nations include, but are not limited to: Botswana, Chad, Zambia, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Historically, being landlocked was regarded as a disadvantageous position; the problems are largely economic and technical. It cuts the country or states off from and to the sea resources and use of the sea such as fishing, but more importantly cuts off access to seaborne trade which even today makes up a large percentage of international trade.  In the past, there have been instances of transit being denied altogether, forcing land-locked nations to find alternative methods of transporting goods to and from the sea.   Landlocked states being interior and surrounded or almost surrounded by land is isolated from the main world flows of goods, people, and ideas. International trade is generally viewed as the engine of economic growth and a major catalyst for social development. Trade benefits both trading countries as it leads to international division of labor, which utilizes the comparative advantage of each country on producing certain goods and services. This is well supported by empirical evidence. A large number of international cross-sectional analyses have shown strong correlation between trade and economic growth.

One of the most disadvantageous features of being land-locked is the lack of a seaport.  Seaports play a very important role in the development process of any country. Without a seaport, land-locked States must depend on the use of neighboring coastal States ports for their imports and exports.  This leads to the issue of equal treatment in ports for land-locked States. This is especially important for developing countries notably because of their geographical separation from most of the world’s major market such as the United States and the European Union. However, for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), lack of territorial access to the sea, remoteness and isolation from world markets impose serious constraints on their ability to participate in world trade. The impact of this directly hinders their overall level of socio-economic development. Landlocked developing countries are generally among the poorest of the developing countries, with the weakest growth rates, and are typically heavily dependent on a very limited number of commodities for their export earnings.  Around the world, coastal regions tend to be wealthier and more heavily populated than inland ones. The seaborne trade of the LLDCs is unavoidably depended on transit through other countries. Additional border crossings and long distance from the market substantially increase the total expenses for the transport services. One problem is the transportation of goods and services, they don’t have any choice but to pass and transit to a land under other territorial jurisdiction. There is no problem if the neighboring state or country is open, friendly and cooperative and contains enough port facilities and transportation equipments. But frequently for one reason or another, transit is taxed, impeded, curtailed or suspended, and the interior State is nearly or completely cut off from the world. Furthermore, even though transit trade can be profitable for the transport systems of transit States, the bargaining power of the landlocked States is considerably reduced in many cases because they compete with their transit States in the production of the same few products. This implies a relative lack of control over the development of the infrastructure, transport management and policies, which normally will be shaped by the transit country according to considerations of its own interests. In most cases their transit neighbors are themselves developing countries, often of broadly similar economic structure and beset by similar scarcities of resources. The recorded trade between landlocked and transit developing countries tends to be relatively insignificant. In any case, the transit developing countries are typically in no position to offer transport systems of high technical and administrative standards to which their landlocked neighbors might link themselves effectively by the sole development of their own internal transport systems. Establishment of efficient transit transport systems will depend on cooperative arrangements between landlocked developing countries and their transit neighbors.

High transport costs have negative impacts on international trade and economic growth of landlocked States. Firstly, high transport costs reduce profits from exporting products, and as a result reduce the countries’ level of income. They also cause inflation of the price of imported raw materials and semi-finished goods, which is particularly harmful if an economy is highly dependent on imported intermediate goods for production. Moreover, high transport costs also reduce the level of investment, both directly though increasing the costs of imported capital and indirectly through reducing the level of total savings that is available for investment. Both have a negative impact on growth in the long run. Secondly, high transport costs of LLDCs are also less likely to attract export-orientated FDI (Foreign Direct Investments). Since trade and FDI are key channels of international knowledge diffusion, higher transport costs may lead to an economy to be further removed from the world technology frontiers and slow its rate of productivity growth. Thirdly, transport costs affect a country’s selection of trading partners. If export markets largely consist of poor, slow growing markets and there are significant costs (including transportation) of switching to new, richer, and faster growing markets, countries maybe constrained in their growth potential.

The remoteness from major world markets is the principal reason why many landlocked developing countries have not been very successful in mitigating consequences caused by their geographical handicap vis-à-vis landlocked countries in Europe. Transit time for goods of landlocked developing countries is extremely long because of their long distance, difficult terrain, road and railway conditions and inefficiency of transit transport. There is a clear correlation between distance and transport costs. High transport costs erode the competitive edge of landlocked developing countries and trade volume. The trade reducing effect is strongest for transport intensive activities that are dependent on exports or imported intermediate goods for production. Most landlocked developing countries, if not all, are commodity exporters.  All the landlocked States may also be considered militarily weak. Few of them are truly modern, united nation-states in complete control of their national territory and guided by the State idea.

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Since 1965 the developing land-locked States have tried to improve their situation in many different ways. There has been a greater emphasis on internal development, with particular stress laid on improved transportation network and facilities. Bilateral negotiations for improved transit remain the most important and most common method of obtaining it. International law provides a framework for such negotiations and sets minimum standards, but does not (at least not yet) guarantee a right of free transit. Even if it did, the individual landlocked and transit States would still have to work out detailed arrangements based on local conditions; the coastal State has the advantage. Bilateral arrangements, while necessary, are a slender reed on which to lean. Transit and landlocked States, as well as the international community in general, have been making concerted efforts in recent years to improve transport facilities and seaports for everyone’s benefit. Congested seaports have been a worldwide problem, and improved transport is an essential element in any country’s economic development. At the same time landlocked States are vigorously developing arrangements and facilities for alternative transit routes through countries other than the traditional transit State. Many postwar efforts at regional economic integration have involved landlocked countries. If the degree of integration is great enough, border formalities are greatly reduced or eliminated for goods in transit, and the landlocked country may even share in the ownership and control of the port and transport facilities. Economic integration, while highly desirable for many reasons, is still no substitute for political integration as a means of solving the political problem of guaranteed access to and from the sea. The landlocked States have continued their efforts in the United Nations and its various organs and international agencies both to establish a legal right of transit and to gain special considerations and assistance to ameliorate their special problems. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been especially active in developing special measures related to the particular needs of the landlocked developing countries. Efforts to establish a legal right of transit were concentrated in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) and in the Seabed Committee that preceded it. Landlocked States are also likely to turn more air transport, joint ventures for marine resource development, and other devices for overleaping the territory that lies between them and the sea and its resources.

About one fifth of all States in the global economy are landlocked. As a result of depleting resources on land, nation states have begun looking to the ocean as a new, diverse supply of raw materials such as petroleum and mineral resources. This has raised the issue of giving landlocked nations equal access to the sea and its resources. But according to Glassner (1996), “It is possible that some of the poorest and most isolated States of today could become the Switzerland of tomorrow” (p. 478). Geographical analysis has proved useful in managing resources, in understanding problems of the environment, state or country; in order that those problems will be properly addressed and well taken-cared of.

REFERENCE

Glassner, M. I. (1996). Political geography: Land-locked States (2nd ed.). New York: J. Wiley.

 

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