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27 January 2023

Business Insider Bangladesh

Padma Bridge should be converted into economic corridor: Speakers

BI Report || BusinessInsider

Published: 19:39, 4 June 2022   Update: 18:36, 23 June 2022
Padma Bridge should be converted into economic corridor: Speakers

Padma Bridge. Photo: Business Insider Bangladesh

Speakers at a roundtable discussion have said the much-hyped Padma Multipurpose Bridge is the symbol of “national desire” and this bridge should be converted into an “economic corridor”.

They also said that this bridge should not only be used for transportation of goods and passenger vehicles but economic zones and industrial parks should also be established focusing on the Bridge, which would facilitate the flourishing of the economy and creation of employment opportunities.

The speakers made the observations at a Roundtable Discussion on “Current State of the Macro Economy - Bangladesh Perspective” held Saturday at the ICAB Council Room at CA Bhaban in the capital's Kawran Bazar area.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) and the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) jointly organized the roundtable discussion.

ICAB President Md Shahadat Hossain and ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy gave the welcome remarks moderated by ICAB former president Humayun Kabir.

Taking part in the discussion, the Executive director of PRI Dr Ahsan H Mansur said that it is necessary to keep stable the exchange rate while there is also a need to enhance the value of the taka.

Citing an example, he said that Russia has made attractive its currency Ruble, and thus Bangladesh would have to do the same thing.

Noting that the exchange rate of taka against the US dollar had long been hovering around Tk 82 to Tk 84, Mansur said there must be a reason for the sudden hike in the exchange rate of the dollar.

"There was no such problem during the pandemic period, but suddenly such problem emerged. We'll have to sort it out and thus keep stable the exchange rate," he said.

About the focus of the next national budget for FY23, Dr Mansur said that the size of the budget is around 14 percent of the GDP which is less compared to other countries of the world. Besides, a major chunk of the budget goes for meeting up the salaries and allowances of the public servants while the rest is earmarked as development expenditure. "It would be better if the budget size could have been made 20% of GDP."

The PRI executive director also suggested taking development projects after proper scrutiny considering good returns. He said that a hefty amount is being allocated against the rail sector this time despite there being no specific timeframe for getting the returns.

CPD distinguished fellow Dr Mustafizur Rahman said that Padma Bridge is the symbol of national desire while this Bridge should not be only used for goods transportation and passenger vehicles, but also should be used as an economic corridor.

Mentioning that there was a plan to set up some 17 economic zones centring the Padma Bridge, he said those should have to be established and eventually those would contribute to the national economy and the creation of employment.

Referring to the issue of weaknesses in institutional capacity, Dr Mustafizur said that weaknesses in institutional capacity are a major barrier to development.

"The NBR still lacks in revenue collection. Our per capita income is increasing, but the tax to GDP ratio is still low. Our institutions should have to be made suitable at first by making necessary investments. Investment is necessary for attaining growth and without investment, growth won't be attained," he added.

Speaking on the occasion as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that the government would have to gradually come out of subsidy in agriculture since there have been massive changes in the rural areas.

He said that the rural houses have got a facelift while the children are also going to schools. "All are living a better life there, but the price of fertilizer is increasing globally,"

The Minister, however, apprehended that there is also fear as agricultural subsidy is usually provided for gaining food security. "Sri Lanka persuaded organic farming, but unfortunately they failed. So, we always put priority on agriculture."

Turning to the issue of checking misuse of funds in all tiers, Mannan said, "We're working tirelessly to check misuse of funds.......we do have a list of 1,800 projects and those would have to be reorganized on a priority basis."

Director General of BIDS Dr Binayak Sen said that the four drivers of the country's economy are in good shape and there is no apprehension about experiencing a situation like Sri Lanka.

"Our agriculture sector is in good shape. Besides, the export income is also good as it gained a growth of 44% during the July-March period. The non-export and manufacturing sectors are also performing better. Bangladesh is now in a good condition compared to India and Pakistan. But, the inward remittance has slightly dropped, but the 3 out of 4 drivers are faring much better," he added.

The renowned economist said that he does not see any pressure on the economy although the imports jumped to 60 percent within a short period of time due to the impacts of the pandemic.

MCCI President Md Saiful Islam proposed raising the stimulus on sending remittances to Bangladesh.

Planning Minister MA Mannan spoke on the occasion as the chief guest while Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director, Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh; Dr M Masrur Reaz, chairman, Policy Exchange Bangladesh; Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD); Dr Binayak Sen, director general, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; Dr M Abu Eusuf, executive director, RAPID; Shubhashish Bose, CEO, ICAB; Shafiqul Alam, bureau chief at AFP; Md Saiful Islam, president, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI); Abul Kasem Khan, former president, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI); and ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam spoke as distinguished panellists.