Reaping maximum benefits from Padma Bridge: Experts for timely policy, support

MUNIMA SULTANA | Saturday, 28 May 2022

The country expects huge economic benefits from the dream Padma Bridge project, though experts suggest taking timely policy and supportive measures to reap maximum benefits from the country's longest bridge after its inauguration next month.

Economists, researchers and business communities believe the scope of building another economic corridor, alongside the existing Dhaka-Chattogram corridor, has been created with development of the 6.15 kilometre road-cum-rail bridge.

They said the launch of the bridge was expected to contribute 1.3-2 percent per annum to the country's GDP.

Countdown has begun after Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, with the prime minister's consent, on Tuesday announced that the bridge would be inaugurated on June 25.

Economist Dr Khandaker Golam Moazzem said the economic situation of the country had improved much as per capita income had now reached US$ 2,591 from $407 in 1998.

Plus, the southern region of the country has seen development of different infrastructures, including bridges and power plants, over the years, he said.

"Internal economy will see a big change following all these achievements but its regional benefits will only be achieved when economic activities centring the infrastructures will get momentum," said Dr Moazzem, who is the research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

The government must formulate a master plan on the south-western region for transforming the benefits from the regional level to the national level, he added.

The decision to build a bridge over the mighty river Padma was taken at the end of 90s. After completing the feasibility study in the early 20s, a project was taken and approved by the ECNEC in 2007. The present government took the project as its most priority soon after coming into power in 2009.

However, after overcoming various challenges during the last 13 years, the bridge has now become a reality - a matter of delight not only for the people of the south-western region but also for the rest of the country. The bridge which was planned only for road transport was built with a rail facility underneath, converting the bridge into a multipurpose one.

SANEM Executive Director Dr Selim Raihan, who was engaged with the project's initial economic benefit analysis, said the prediction at that time was assessed considering the backwardness of the south-western region and the bridge would help it get a connectivity to be involved with economic activities.

"The prediction at the initial stage was based on a dream but now it is a reality," he said.

Now, the Mongla Port, Payra Port and construction of other bridges in the southern region have created opportunities not only for the people of the locality but also for people in other parts of the country, he added.

Business leader Abul Kasem Khan said the bridge would certainly create trade and business opportunities for products of the south-western region to get access to wider markets and improve supply chains.

Besides, the bridge will speed up the urban-centric development process in this historically backward region, he observed.

Asked how the business community considers investing in the districts on the other side of the Padma Bridge, former DCCI president said policy level support, like tax incentives, was necessary to encourage the investment.

"Which development does the government want to focus on - industry, agriculture or service? This should be clear in the policy. Plus, there should be a mention of what incentives will be offered to the investors," said Mr Khan, also a director of the FBCCI.

President of Khulna Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kazi Aminul Haq said the Padma Bridge would help them enjoy many opportunities.

But the economic benefits will depend on the government's support to the business community and investors, he observed.

"One cannot expect the bridge will automatically create different opportunities for people," said Haq, adding that the requirements for establishment of special economic zones, availability of land with utility, finance, tax incentives were needed to be incorporated in the policy.

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