Greater transport connectivity between India and Bangladesh can dramatically increase national income in both the countries, a World Bank report has said.
The report — “Connecting to thrive: Challenges and Opportunities of Transport Integration in Eastern South Asia” — said “seamless” bilateral connectivity can potentially increase the national income of Bangladesh by 17% and of India by 8%.
The report noted that Bangladesh’s exports to India could increase by 182% and India’s exports to Bangladesh by 126% if the two countries signed a free trade agreement.
“This analysis found that improving transport connectivity between the two countries could increase exports even further, yielding a 297% increase in Bangladesh’s exports to India and a 172% increase in India’s exports to Bangladesh,” a statement from the World Bank said summing up the report’s observations.
The report set the larger context of connectivity on a Tuesday when Prime Minister inaugurated the “Maitri Setu”, a bridge across the Feni river on the Indian boundary between Tripura and Bangladesh. The 1.9 km long bridge will allow Tripura to access the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh, which is approximately 80 km from the southernmost part of Tripura.
The new World Bank report said the location of Bangladesh makes the country “a strategic gateway” to India, Nepal, Bhutan and other East Asian countries.
“Bangladesh can also become an economic powerhouse by improving regional trade, transit and logistics network,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. The report noted that “at present” Indian trucks are not allowed to transit through Bangladesh which increases cost of transportation of goods to the northeastern States.
Arguing for better connectivity between the two countries, World Bank officials said opening of transit facilities between the two countries would reduce the distance between Agartala and Kolkata to just 450 km. At present the trucks have to drive around 1600 km to connect Agartala with the port in Kolkata.
“The eastern sub-region is poised to become an economic growth pole for South Asia. An important component of this development potential is for countries to invest in connectivity — rail, inland waterways, and roads,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.