The implementation of the proposed Southwest Bangladesh Economic Corridor (SWBEC) will enable the region's economic output to hit $148 billion by 2050, said the Asian Development Bank.
The amount is 3.3 times higher than the 'business as usual' scenario, according to a study that was presented yesterday at an event at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel.
The proposed economic corridor aims to develop the country's lagging southeast and northeast regions and integrate them with the vibrant growth centres in Dhaka and Chittagong.
The first phase of the proposed corridor runs from Jessore to Dhaka with an extension to Benapole and Payra Port.
Last month, the ADB submitted a comprehensive report on the economic corridor to the government.
The proposed corridor will involve a transport spine running through key urban and economic centres, with connectivity to the region's key gateway, the study said.
The study suggested running of multimodal transportation in the Jessore-Khulna-Bagerhat-Gopalganj-Teknaf-Bhanga-Dhaka routes for the corridor.
The other routes include Jessore-Magura-Faridpur-Dhaka via Paturia and Jessore-Narail-Kasiani-Bhanga via Padma bridge.
SWBEC will include two industrial nodes like Khulna and Dhaka covering six districts, where high growth sectors will be promoted.
A phase-wise approach for nodal development is recommended, with development of the Dhaka node -- which would comprise of Dhaka, Narayanganj and Munshiganj -- on a priority basis.
It would be followed by the Khulna node that includes Khulna, Bagerhat and Jessore districts.
The study identified some potential sectors that can drive industrialisation in this economic corridor.
The sectors include food processing, pharmaceuticals, leather and leather-based products, footwear, textile and garment, bicycles, automobiles and shipbuilding.
Robust infrastructure covering multi-modal transport connectivity, logistics and gateway, as well as power will be developed in the corridor to attract centres of production and consumption and facilitate greater access to markets.
The study estimates $140 billion of investment will be needed over the next 30 years for the transformational infrastructure.
The study also suggested including the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority for operating the proposed economic corridor.
At the event, Manmohan Parkash, country director of ADB, said Bangladesh wants to achieve 8 percent economic growth by 2020. But for that to happen, the country needs to implement such economic corridors.
The implementation of such economic corridors will create a significant number of jobs in the country, Parkash said.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the issue of communication between the capital and the southwest areas should be considered seriously.
In 2016, trade growth was slower than the national income growth. “It's a concern. This is a very unhappy indicator for the economy.”
There has been a decline in the demand for garments almost everywhere, which is another cause for worry.
“We have to put emphasis on our domestic demand. Domestic demand can be substantially increased.”
The proposed economic corridor will not only create connectivity in the southwest region of Bangladesh, but also with some neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan and the northeast regions of India.