Experts and economists on Sunday said that Bangladesh needed to increase investment to $ 12.50 billion for infrastructure development from existing annual spending of $ 3.5 billion to gain economic benefits of regional and international connectivity.
At a seminar on ‘Building Infrastructure for Growth and SDGs’ at Radisson Hotel in the city, economists said that although an estimated $ 881 billion was invested in the infrastructure sector in Asia, this was not sufficient.
Traditionally, infrastructure investment has been sourced mainly from public sector and the sector provides over 90 per cent of the overall infrastructure investment in the region, said Syed Afsor H Uddin, chief executive Officer of public-private partnership office.
He emphasised on private sector partnership in developing infrastructures, saying that the pattern of development and maintenance of the infrastructures by the government should be changed.
Citing an international report, Afsor said despite huge growth and development, over 400 million people in Asia lack electricity; 300 million have no access to safe drinking water; and 1.5 billion lack basic sanitation.
‘In many countries power outage constrains economic growth and city traffic congestion alone costs huge amounts daily in lost productivity, wasted fuel and human stress, he said while presenting a keynote paper at the seminar.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and UNDP jointly organised the seminar on the sideline of the daylong ‘Impact Bangladesh Forum’.
Khan Ahmed Sayeed Murshid, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, moderated the seminar.
Selim Raihan, Dhaka University professor, said the government should spend at least five per cent of the total budget for the development of infrastructures.
He said that Bangladesh government should take a lot of initiative to be integrated through Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) corridor and take part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Selim suggested the government for reforming the old trade policies of the country and to increase the negotiation capacity of the
government officials in the international arena.
Mahbubul Anam, president of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said that without resolving the domestic supply chain challenges it would not be possible to achieve the export earnings target at $ 50 billion by 2021.
He said that at the airport in Dhaka, the exporters and importers have to spend time at least for seven days for the release of goods and it takes on an average 21 days to release the goods from the Benapole land port.
Emphasising on the integrated tax and other systems, Mahbubul suggested for introducing the national single window from where the private sector entrepreneurs can process all necessary documents within 24 to 48 hours.
In another session, Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, said the initiative of launching 100 Special Economic Zones is good, but at the same time the government should also learn from the bad examples of Korean EPZ.
He said the authorities of Korean EPZ have been facing challenge of land registration. Kaliakoir IT Park is ready, but it is not functioning due to political reasons while the leather estate in Savar has been running, but the effluent treatment plant is not functioning properly.
Mansur suggested the government for a stable energy policy as both the local and foreign investors want to have a reliable source of power at a stable rate to run their business.
The ongoing power related policy of the government is not sustainable and Bangladesh will go out of competition in the global market if the government frequently increases the price of power, he said.
He said that country’s banking system was not going to the right direction and the economic governance was also important for the economic growth.
‘The current Rohingya issue indicates that Bangladesh is isolated in this region. We are isolated, because of our own problems. We are not connected enough. We need to have strings of geo-political connectivity,’ he said.
Masrur Reaz, senior economist and programme manager of Trade and Competitiveness of the World Bank, said eight economic zones in Bangladesh had total a $ 2.6 billion of investments.
He said that the economic zones in Bangladesh can help achieve sustainable development goals and 7.4 per cent GDP growth.
Nihad Kabir, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, moderated the session.
State minister for finance MA Mannan inaugurated the daylong event while the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, DCCI president Abul Kasem Khan and deputy country director of UNDP Bangladesh Kyoko Yokosuka attended the seminar.
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