N-E India a potential economic corridor for BD, say experts

Experts consider the north-east India a potential economic corridor for trade and commerce for Bangladesh and stressed the need for investment in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

In separate keynote papers during a working session of stakeholders' consultation at BRAC Inn Centre Saturday, Masudur Rahman of Micro-credit Regulatory Authority of Bangladesh and Saikat Dutta of Engineering Export Promotion Council of India highlighted the points suggesting removal of barriers to get benefit of the corridor.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB) organised the day-long consultation aiming at fostering regional cooperation in South Asia.

The working session on 'economic corridors in South Asia: Business potentials and investment opportunities," was chaired by Chairman of Policy Research Institute Dr Zaidi Sattar.

The keynote paper presenters said Bangladesh with its geographical location has become a natural trading partner for the north eastern states of India, connecting Nepal and Bhutan through a narrow 16-kilometre wide land corridor.

Having over 4000 kilometers (km) border, they said Bangladesh and India would build the economic corridors to boost regional integration and improve trade particularly for pro- poor economic development through promoting SMEs.

Dr Masudur Rahman said the trade gap of about US dollar 304.63 million with India can be reduced through focusing on non- traditional export items to the north eastern states of India and suggested removal of tariff and non tariff barriers mostly imposed by India.

He said India has imposed high tariff on some Bangladeshi goods which have good prospects for export to northeastern region of India and changed harmonised system of code in the case of fruit juice increasing a 20 per cent higher duty from the earlier HS code.

Saikat Dutta said economic corridors connecting north eastern states of India with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh would attract enormous private investment leading to save travel time, travel costs and generate employment opportunities.

He said both the countries can share the economic benefit of labour incentive and economic growth sector of SMEs by removing various barriers. These include use of obsolete technology, access to credit, low value addition and limits to capacity expansion and high infrastructural and transaction costs.

Both the speakers highlighted improvement of physical infrastructures including efficient cargo handling through road, rail, air and inland water, digitilisation of land ports and simplifying banking system.

SANEM and RIS have identified nine economic corridors in East Asia to foster regional cooperation and is now conducting different studies to strengthen cross-border infrastructure, enhance investments in infrastructure, bring efficiency in border corridors, promote multimodal transportation and opening of south Asia regional transit through adopting SA common transport policy.