Economists for proper strategy to reap advantages offered by Padma Bridge

The government must outline a “proper strategy” to reap the advantages that will be on offer particularly for the south-western region of the country, upon completion of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.

So say economists, some of whom estimate an overall boost to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of upto 5 percent in future, if the right plan can be taken up and implemented.

They are urging the government to quickly identify the sectors that stand to benefit most, and match them with districts in the south-west that correspond with the best conditions for each particular industry, for inclusive growth towards attaining the developed country status by 2041.

About 6 kilometres of the bridge out of 6.15 km has become visible with the installation of its 40th span on December 4. The construction of the bridge started in November, 2014 and the mega structure is expected to be open to the public in 2022. It’ll connect 21 southern and south-western districts with the capital.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told UNB the Padma Bridge is definitely an achievement for Bangladesh as it’s being constructed by the country’s own money.

“Bangladesh will overcome its last barrier and become an integrated country through the bridge. It’s definitely an achievement for us. Good communication links between the southern part of the country and other regions will be ensured through the road and rail line. Fair price of goods for producers and consumers would also be ensured,” the economist said.

Mustafizur added that the bridge will play a significant role in employment in the sourthen districts. Besides, a connection may built with India, Nepal and Bhutal by it.

“So, now we have to take proper strategy to get the advantages of the Padma Bridge. There is no benefit by building only bridge if we can’t reap its advantages. We have to emphasise on economy- based industry there now. The initiative has to be taken soon,” he said.

He also said after completing the bridge, a demand of employment will be created in the districts. The government should emphasise to create skilled manpower to meet the demand.

“Now, the government has to think to provide quality electricity and gas services in the districts where economic zones are expected to grow there,” he added.

The noted economist further said considering the country’s existing economic structure, the Padma Bridge would help to increase Bangladesh’s GDP growth 1.3 percent. “However, the GDP growth may rise by up to 5 percent if “proper strategy” can be taken now in the regions,” he also expected.

Talking to UNB, Dr Masrur Reaz, chairman of Policy Exchange Bangladesh (PEB), said some temporary employment has already been created during the construction period of the bridge. But it’s time to take up proper plan to create more employment in the sourthern part of the country as it’s a big region.

“If we want to get early benefit, we have to take proper plan early as well. The government with private partnership should give emphasis on agro-based industries in the districts. The right location is also important for industries,” he added.

The economist said small businesses have to be given more priority in the southern part’s economic zones to create more employment and the government should purchase products from small businesses too.

Dr Masrur said now the government has to find out what are the economic advantages in the southern part of the country. After completing the construction of the bridge, a quick communication will be implemented with all regions.

“Now, zone can be selected for export-oriented and value-added agro-based goods in the regions. There is no proper cold storage house for agricultural products in the country. So, the sites can be chosen to gain control over the essentials market taking various initiatives,” he added.

He said the government should analyse the market properly and address the gaps. The northern regions of the country couldn’t be industrialized even after constructing the Jamuna Bridge due to lack of proper plan and strategy.

“So, now we have to think about the southern part to utilize the bridge properly,” the economist also suggested,

The Project Director of Padma Bridge Md Shafiqul Islam told UNB said only the 41st and last span remains to be installed, and that will be done before the upcoming Victory Day (December 16th).

“The main construction of the bridge has been completed upto 91% and overall project construction completed 82.5% till December 6. The construction work will complete in 2022,” he added.

Shafiqul said the bridge is expected to enhance regional trade and collaboration along the Asian highway and the Trans-Asian railway network.

Project overview

China Major Bridge Engineering Corporation (MBEC), was appointed for the main bridge. The steel material bridge’s length is 6.15 km, viaduct 3.148 km (road), 532 m (rail), approach road: 12.117 km, span: 41 (with each span being 150 meters long).

However, the project was first approved by Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) with an estimated cost of Tk10,161 crore in 2007.

Following irreconcilable differences with the World Bank arising out of the issue of financing, in 2012 the government decided to go it alone. The second revision of the project was approved by Ecnec on January 5, 2016 with an estimated cost of Tk 28,794 to be implemented by 2018. Without changing the project proposal, the costs were increased again to Tk 30,193 crore In June 2018.

Source: United News of Bangladesh