while presenting keynote at a seminar on “Regional Connectivity: Opportunities and Challenges for Bangladesh,” organised by DCCI on Saturday, 17 October 2015.
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Published in The Daily Star
India to play vital role to boost regional connectivity: Quader
Star Business Report
Successful implementation of the Motor Vehicle Agreement among four South Asian countries mostly depends on a positive approach by India, as it has to play a central role for the effectiveness of the deal, Obaidul Quader, road transport and bridges minister, said yesterday.
Quader spoke at a seminar on regional connectivity and its opportunities and challenges for Bangladesh, organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), at the chamber’s office in the capital.
The agreement was signed between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. “I am not saying that Nepal or Bhutan are less important. India is the most important factor because of its size, demographic position and its policy towards regional connectivity,” he said.
The four countries mapped out a six-month action plan in June this year to establish a network for the seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles across their territories.
The agreement will not remain confined to paper for long as it will be implemented soon, the minister said.
The partner countries of the agreement will arrange a car rally in November through the proposed routes, and from January next year it will be operational, Quader said.
“To make the agreement successful, we need to change our mindset, and it would not be tough to remove infrastructure bottlenecks and security concerns with a good attitude.”
Bangladesh could gain economic benefit out of the deal through proper planning, said Md Khurshed Alam, secretary in charge of the foreign affairs ministry.
“India is our largest neighbour; so the country should be proactive to make the deal effective,” he said, adding that the business community can also play a vital role in implementing the agreement.
The deal is a landmark for regional integration, and political will is necessary to make it effective, said Hari Kumar Shrestha, Nepal’s ambassador to Dhaka.
Although connectivity between Nepal and Bangladesh was established in 1996, it could not be effective due to lack of infrastructure, he said.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said tariff would not be a major barrier for regional connectivity.
“Due to the non-tariff barriers, cost of trade with India is higher compared with that of Hong Kong,” he said while presenting a paper on regional connectivity from Bangladesh’s perspective.
The agreement may leave an adverse impact on local economy, damage roads due to large-scale movement of vehicles and higher competition for local exporters in the North Eastern states of India, he said. Bangladesh will need some $2.3 billion in fresh investments to develop its road, port and land port infrastructure, he said.
All four countries of the agreement need to give equal importance to investment, especially in terms of infrastructure and other developments, he said. “Otherwise the member countries will not get equal benefit from the regional connectivity.”
Mohammad Shafiullah, senior economist at the Policy Research Institute, said regional connectivity is essential for Bangladesh to achieve its goal of attaining over 7 percent GDP growth.
South Asia’s ability to perform inevitably depends on further growth in seamless and connected regional connectivity, said Hossain Khaled, DCCI president.
“Bangladesh is at the crossroads of a new integrated regional connectivity, a new episode of the multilateral regional cooperation across the South Asia.”
Published in New Age
BBIN motor vehicle deal implementation needs coordinated action: seminar
Participants at a seminar Saturday called for coordinated action plans for the implementation of the recently concluded motor vehicle agreement among four South Asian countries.
The seminar was hosted by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Speaking as the chief guest, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader said a four-nation friendship car rally would kick off from India on November 14 and pass through Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
He described the coming car rally as a trial run for starting passenger bus service and driving personal cars across the four countries.
He said that the problems would be identified once the operations begin and steps would be taken to resolve those.
Negotiations are pending to work out the modalities, identify the authorized routes and details to facilitate seamless cargo movement among the four countries, a key goal of the agreement, Nepalese ambassador in Dhaka Hari Kumar Shrestha said coordinated action was needed to facilitate technically viable seamless movement of motor vehicles between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal for which the four nations signed a deal in June.
Indian High Commission first secretary for commerce Bijay Selvaraj said the charges on passenger and cargo movement should be economically viable.
In his keynote paper Centre for Policy Dialogue additional director for research Khondaker Golam Moazzem said that working out standard operating procedures, charges and duties only could make the deal beneficial to the four nations.
He said that it was imperative for Bangladesh to invest on upgrading its roads as well as port and border trade facilities.
DCCI president Hossain Khaled urged the government to improve infrastructure through coordinated action.
He also called for resolving non-tariff issues to boost exports.
Obaidul Quader said all the roads to be connected to the routes would be gradually upgraded to four lanes.
On June 15, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal signed the four-nation motor vehicle agreement in Thimphu to facilitate seamless movement of passengers and cargo between them by road.
The negotiations to fix the routes, the charges, the modus operandi and the places of halting for rest are pending.
The four countries signed the deal as a SAARC agreement could not be reached in the summit held in November 2014.
The DCCI seminar was entitled ‘Regional Connectivity: Opportunities and Challenges for Bangladesh.’
The participants underlined the need for adopting long-term country strategy for regional connectivity.
Published in Dhaka Tribune
Narrow roads, tough immigration key challenges for BBIN
The BBIN countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – will face two major challenges – strict immigration rules and narrow roads – while implementing the BBIN motor vehicle agreement, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.
They said meeting the challenges was crucial to take full benefits of the deal, while addressing the seminar on regional connectivity organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) at its office in the capital. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader was the chief guest at the programme.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director at the Centre for Policy Dialouge, said Bangladesh is likely to be benefited as the agreement would boost trade among the four countries because of the creation of new routes.
The BBIN motor vehicle pact is set to take effect from January next year, allowing transnational transport services among the four countries. Hari Kumar Shrestha, Nepalese envoy to Bangladesh said the focus should be on the possible advantages that all four countries could get after the agreement would take effect.
DCCI President Hossain Khaled said: “Trade potential of the four countries has been limited by inadequate trade infrastructure, dearth of supply chain network, tariff and non-tariff barriers and absence of regional cooperation.”
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said actions would be taken to overcome the challenges that would emerge along the way. “But we have to start first.”
He said the trial run of cargo transports among the four countries in accordance with the agreement would start in early November.
Among others, Muhammad Shafiullah, senior economist at Policy Research Institution, Humayun Rashid, DCCI senior vice-president, and Khair Mohammad Khan, DCCI coordinating director, addressed the seminar.
Published in The Financial Express
Poor infrastructures again listed as major roadblocks
Describing infrastructure inadequacies as roadblocks to the upcoming regional motor traffic, experts at a business meet Saturday estimated that upgrading the necessary road, port and land-port facilities would require some US$2.3 billion.
An urgent need, among the dos, is massive development of Bangladesh’s road infrastructure to give passage to trans-border motor vehicles under the four-nation BBIN-MVA initiative.
The views came from a seminar on ‘Regional Connectivity: Opportunities and Challenges for Bangladesh’, as the trial run of a motorcade is ahead, and a Kolkata-Agartala bus service through the congested capital city, Dhaka, has already kick-started.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised the seminar on regional connectivity at the DCCI auditorium, which was attended by a good number of diplomats, economists, researchers, businessmen, academics and officials from government and non-government organisations.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader, who attended the programme as chief guest, presented a progress report on the development recipes being executed in upgrading the road networks.
He told his audience that Bangladesh is trying its best to develop its roads and highways to facilitate the regional connectivity and that “many of the projects are ahead of schedule”.
The four South Asian countries-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN)–signed the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) on June 15 last to facilitate seamless cross-border movement of vehicles by reducing trade barriers and increasing the efficiency of the transport system.
“The connectivity initiative would ensure a good number of benefits to Bangladesh, but the roads in the country are not suitable to take loads of heavy-duty vehicles carrying goods among the nations,” said CPD Additional Research Director Dr Khodaker Golam Moazzem, presenting the keynote paper at the seminar.
Speakers at the seminar also demanded a comprehensive and coordinated plan from all participating countries to develop their own infrastructures to facilitate smooth movement of transport among the countries under the BBIN-MVA deal.
“The existing roads would be damaged through large-scale movement of vehicles unless adequate investment is made for their improvement,” said Mr Moazzen.
He raised another note of concern that goods to be passed through would have the potential to cause adverse impact on local economy, unless sophisticated tracking system is applied.
According to him, most of the roads are poor and narrow and ports without permanent immigration and customs offices, and lack proper warehouse facilities.
To upgrade the facilities, a total of US$ 2.3 billion will be needed: including US$ 20 million for improvement of Tamabil, Akhaura, Sutarkandi and Benapole land ports while US$ 33 million for improving efficiency of Chittagong seaport.
Bangladesh’s export to Northeast India, Moazzem said, would face more competition due to high inflow of similar products using low-cost new routes.
He also expressed the fear about political implications if negative list of approach for traded products bound for third country is not followed.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) President Hossain Khaled, who moderated the whole programme, said the country loses on average Tk 100 billion every year due to the vulnerable condition of the country’s roads and highways. “The country’s GDP would increase by about 2.0 per cent with improved road conditions,” he told the meet.
The Road Transport Minister, Obaidul Quader, said Bangladesh is trying its best to develop its roads and highways to facilitate the regional connectivity.
He said despite World Bank’s denial, the Padma Bridge project is going on in full swing. “The construction of the main bridge including piling and river training will begin in December this year,” said the minister.
“No contractors complained about shortage of funds,” he added.
The minister also expects completion of the 4-lane Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways by December next.
The government has also undertaken projects for improvement of a number of highways, including Dhaka-Joydebpur road, under South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Project with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The minister said the BBIN friendship motor rally has been planned for November to highlight the sub-regional connectivity and the scope and opportunities for greater people-to-people contact and trade under the BBIN initiative.
He urged cooperation from all in making the cross-border rally a success.
Describing the experience of his recent visit to Burimari, Fulbari, Shillong and Panitangki, Nepalese ambassador Hari Kumar Shrestha also identified road infrastructure as number- one challenge for implementing the BBIN-MVA initiative.
The diplomat, however, said allowing his landlocked country to use Chittagong and Mongla ports would increase their trade in the region and reduce transportation costs.
He also highlighted the urgency for Dhaka-Kathmandu direct road communications.
The seminar was also addressed, among others, by Foreign Affairs Secretary (Maritime Affairs) Rear Admiral Md. Khurshed Alam, Indian First Secretary and Railway adviser of the Indian High Commission Dibbanjan Roy, First Secretary (commerce) Bijay Selvaraj, Bhutanese First Secretary Dipanjan Roy, DCCI former president Benazir Ahmed, DCCI senior Vice President Humayun Rashid, Center for NRB chairperson MS Shekil Chowdhury, PRI senior economist Muhammad Shafiullah, DCCI director Khair Mohammad Khan, Bangladesh Indenting Agents Association President MS Siddiqui, Haji Samad and Hossain Majumder.
ASM Mainuddin Monem, deputy managing director of Abdul Monem Ltd, a leading infrastructure company, said a road network alone will not help build effective connectivity. Rail and river systems have to be developed as well.
The Bhutanese first secretary described lack of infrastructural facilities at Dawki which are hampering their trade with Bangladesh.
The Indian first secretaries, however, pointed out that development works are going on at Dawki and Indian side at Akhaura.
Speakers at the seminar said the connectivity and regional cooperation will help South Asia become a top region for trade and business and create opportunities for Bangladesh’s promising tourism sector.
“But all this depends on political will of the four nations,” one of them observed, underscoring the need for establishing a competent coordination mechanism for comprehensive tariff planning and management for use of road, rail, water and marine routes.