'Bangladesh needs to invest $7 bn in transit facilities'

Dhaka, Apr 21 : Bangladesh will need to invest Tk 500 billion ($7 billion) in road, rail and river ways and ports in the next two to three years to facilitate transit to India, Nepal and Bhutan, the government has estimated.

A high level committee that considered an experts report did not determine the contentious issue of how Bangladesh would charge the neighbours and how much it would earn. The task has been left to a sub-committee, The Daily Star said Wednesday.

The issue is contentious with opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), its Islamist allies and a section of the intelligentsia seeing the transit facilities as an economically losing proposition.

They have also raised security issues.

The transport of heavy equipment by India across Bangladesh to its northeastern Tripura state was criticised by sections of the media since Dhaka did not charge Delhi any transit fee.

The government later explained that it was merely following international rules prescribed by the World Trade Organisation and other bodies.

A high-level meeting, chaired by Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith, which studied the experts report was attended by Commerce Minister Faruk Khan, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, prime minister's foreign affairs Adviser Gowhar Rizvi and economic affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying that the report would be reviewed with cost benefit analysis added to it.

A minister said the fee will be fixed considering the benefits of all the participating countries.

According to the report, the countries taking the transit facility will save between 12 and 70 percent on their transport cost.

The report said the river routes are now unfit for transit and major infrastructural development of rail routes is required. With the present condition, roads are capable of transporting 10 percent of the probable transit traffic.