Road to higher middle income economy
It is indeed heartening to see the prime minister declare the establishment of the Bangladesh Development Authority to help foster business and economic activities in the country. The government's plan to create 100 more Special Economic Zones will also be crucial in attracting more Foreign Direct Investment. There are, however, some serious impediments before Bangladesh's goal to become a higher middle income country. The 45th largest economy in the world has one of the worst logistics and transport services in the region. It still does not have a modern multimodal transport system to speak of, as a result of which local exports lose competitiveness in the global market. Not only that, our ports, road, rail and air services are still to become at par with their Asian Tiger counterparts. So are our workforce and technology.
As discussants at the Bangladesh Investment and Policy Summit have said, in the last decade, there has been no marked improvement in the container handling capacity of the Chittagong Port. The completion of the four-lane highway connecting the capital with the port city has been given a time extension for the fourth time last month. The project, which was supposed to finish four years ago, has been delayed because of unavailability of stone chips.
Bangladesh's transportation system needs to go through an overhaul. Gridlock in the highways bleeds the country's economy, and bringing about a sustainable solution to the menace is the order of the day. Barge services between Chittagong and Dhaka can be a good beginning. It is essential to improve ports, road, rail, and air services. Private sector, which is ready to invest in transport infrastructure and trade logistics, can team up with the government.