Discussants say at a workshop
North-East India can unlock its potential through improved connectivity which will benefit neighbouring countries including Bangladesh.
This was said at a workshop titled “Bangladesh–Leveraging Growth Opportunities in the Neighborhood” jointly organized by the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI) and the World Bank Group in the capital yesterday.
Discussants in the program mentioned lack of proper connectivity, fractured road, rail and water networks as big challenges for South Asia.
Prime minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman attended the program as chief guest and PRI Chairman Dr Zaidi Sattar chaired it.
World Bank Lead Economist and Coordinator Sanjay Kathuria and World Bank Consultant (MTI global practice) Priya Mathur together presented a paper titled “Bangladesh: Leveraging Opportunities in North East India”.
In the presentation, they observed that for improving North-East India connectivity, investing in upgrading and expanding road network within North-East India and its neighbors was important.
There are three emerging corridors with trilateral highway including (India-Myanmar-Thailand), Kaladan multi-modal corridor (North-East India to Sittwe port in Myanmar) and BCIM economic corridor (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar).
The paper suggested extending railway networks and broad-gauging; making more airports operational and activating waterways.
The paper further suggested improving welfare of Bangladeshi consumers through access to cheaper and greater variety of products; enhancing growth opportunities for Bangladeshi firms, improved access to cheaper inputs, export markets for finished goods, partnership arrangements for knowledge transfer and skill upgrading and investment opportunities through foreign direct investment (FDI).
Kathuria said: “Bangladeshi consumers will benefit from emergence of more competing sources of product imports.
“North East India can provide medical services to Bangladeshi medical tourists. Bangladesh is the largest source of medical tourists in India. Guwahati (Assam) is growing rapidly in terms of medical services,” said Kathuria.
Dr Zaidi, in his opening remark, said: “Bangladesh has made enormous strides in economic and human development since independence. The challenge is to continue this march.
“As Bangladesh is transitioning out of the Least Developing Countries (LDC) status, it must meet all the criteria”
He further said: “The Growth Commission, headed by Nobel laureate and Economist Michael Spence, has concluded that growth rates for developing economies are significantly higher today than at any time in history.
“Strategic trade integration with the vast global market makes that possible. Bangladesh’s economy has the potential to grow at 8-10% annually by leveraging trade opportunities in regional and global markets.”
Prime minister’s Adviser Salman said: “Our export basket is stuck on only a few products. It should be diversified. Like the garments sector, incentives will be provided to other sectors also.”
South Asia neighbourhood challenges and opportunities
According to PRI, analysts have described this region as the least economically integrated.
Inter-regional trade is only 5%, compared to 26% in ASEAN, 60% in EU. Safta (The South Asian Free Trade Area) has not helped; lack of connectivity-fractured road, rail and water networks; political borders need not be trade and investment barriers; missed opportunities — in a more economically integrated region, Bangladesh growth could be 1-2% points higher.