The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said an economic corridor connecting the northeast and southwest region of Bangladesh would ensure uniform, holistic, and sustainable development across the country and boost economic output drastically.
The whole corridor is expected to generate additional employment of 2.3 million jobs by 2025 and then gradually increase to 40.7 million jobs by 2050. The total employment generated in the corridor region is expected to be 15.7 million in 2025 and 71.8 million in 2050.
The entire Bangladesh Economic Corridor (BEC) would cover 14 districts and 34 per cent of the total population, running from Khulna Division to Sylhet and Mymensingh Division via capital Dhaka, while there can be eight major gateways in BEC region including Mongla and Payra sea ports, Benapole, Bhomra, Akhaura, Tamabil, Bibirbazar, Nakugaon land ports.
The total output of this corridor will increase to 1.4 times in 2030 and 2.6 times in 2050 as well, according to the Bangladesh Economic Corridor Development Highlight report released at a programme in the capital by the ADB with the association of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) on Wednesday.
BEC aims to enable competitive industries linking, create jobs, and upgrade infrastructure aligning with future requirements of urban and social agglomerations. Due to the intervention, the total combined output in the entire economic corridor region is expected to increase from $32 billion in 2020 to $286 billion by 2050 in the business-induced scenario (BIS), the report reads.
Soon Chan Hong, senior country specialist, ADB Bangladesh office, presented the keynote during the event. He said that if the development of the corridor is not ensured, the cost of production will be slightly more than $100 billion. The export basket of Bangladesh, currently dominated by RMG, is expected to diversify through inclusion of other industries like automotive, leather & footwear, and non-metallic minerals as well.
Speaking as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan underscored that the road communication system has been improved considerably throughout the country.
The minister said, “The communication infrastructure in both the northeast and southwest regions is undergoing enhancements.” Considering this, he proposed that the corridor's development plan should prioritize alternative connections outside the capital city.
Edimon Ginting, Country Director, Bangladesh Resident Mission of ADB said, “When Bangladesh will enter the next phase of economic growth in near future, both the advantages of low-cost labour and preferential market access may fade away and bring down competitiveness of traditional labour-based manufacturing industries. To address these challenges, Bangladesh needs a holistic development strategy that will facilitate structural transformation and improve welfare across the country”.
What is included in the BEC plan?
According to ADB, the development of this envisaged corridor can be carried out in two phases. In the first phase, Southwest Bangladesh Economic Corridor (SWBEC) and later the Bangladesh Economic Corridor (NEBEC).
There will be three terminals of the envisaged SWBEC---Dhaka, Jashore, and Khulna and five spines (transport routes) to connect these terminals. Similarly, two terminals of the envisaged NEBEC will be Mymensingh and Sylhet. There are three spines that will connect Mymensingh to Sylhet. Owing to the haor area in Sunamganj district, Mymensingh and Sylhet cannot be directly connected.
The ADB also identified four nodes: Dhaka–Gazipur– Narshingdi, Khulna– Jessore, Sylhet–Habiganj, and Mymensingh–Netrokona, which are industrial clusters spread across adjacent districts supported by the spine.
According to the ADB, to reap the benefit of the BEC, Bangladesh needs to widen some major roads to facilitate smooth connectivity including Paturia River-crossing to Mongla; Dhaka to Patuakhali, Bhanga to Katakhali via Gopalganj, Magura to Jashore, Mogorkhal to Mymensingh, Mogorkhal to Mirer Bazar, Mirerbazar to Bhulta, Bhulta to Ashuganj, Sylhet–Tamabil Road, Biswa Road Bus Station to Bara Sultanpur on Comilla Highway and Sherpur– Mymensingh Highway.
To improve rail share in the entire corridor region, they identified 62 projects, 34 of which pertain to gauge standardization in key routes. In addition, 17 projects related to new route development or route upgradation while four projects related to rail route electrification have been identified.
For Inland Waterway Transport (IWT), they suggested developing a network for the corridor region as it provides natural connectivity with the Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya, and West Bengal. The ADB also came up with suggestions to increase power generation capacity.