B’desh may benefit hugely from ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, The Financial Express, 9 May 2017
Bangladesh is uniquely placed to gain advantages of ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative due to its geographic location between two Asian giants-China and India-as experts see the multifaceted connectivity as a counterbalance to growing global protectionism.
However, reaping the benefit of this transcontinental-connectivity initiative presupposes better infrastructure and greater connectivity with the neighbouring countries and regions, they said at a conference on ‘Bangladesh-China Relations: One Belt and One Road Initiative’.
Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) organised the conference at a city hotel.
“In today’s world, where anti-globalisation, protectionism and isolationism are on the rise in some parts of the world, ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative can serve as a new force of openness and cooperation,” said eminent economist Prof Rehman Sobhan.
“This signifies the emergence of a new world order which is going to be Asia-centric,” he said, adding, “This also demonstrates the first effort to export the growing influence of the Asian community and forthcoming Asian century into a global context.”
The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, also known as Belt Road initiative, which is envisioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping, focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries between China and the rest of Eurasia.
The scheme consists of two main components: the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and oceangoing ‘Maritime Silk Road’.
“Bangladesh is uniquely placed in the context of this OBOR initiative, as we are in the middle of two major economic powers, namely India and China, who are going to be the prime movers of the Asian century”, Prof Sobhan remarked.
The eminent economist also emphasised greater connectivity and more open trade relationship among South Asian countries for leveraging this OBOR initiative.
“Like the old Grand Trunk Road, we can establish land connectivity from Bangladesh all the way up to Kabul “, he envisioned.
“However, for materialising such vision, South Asian countries need to get their acts together as this region cannot get itself bypassed by the wider integration taking place within the Asian community.”
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Dr. Gowher Rizvi said both India and China are vital to the development of Bangladesh.
“Our relationships with these two economic powers are not a zero-sum game, but a positive-sum game”, he observed.
Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh MA Mingqiang said that the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative is inclusive rather than exclusive and it is based on equality.
Chief Economist of Bangladesh Bank Dr. Faisal Ahmed in his keynote speech on “Industrial Capacity Cooperation” said that Bangladesh needs to be part of the East Asian supply chain to accelerate its economic growth.
“In the coming years, China will be vacating many of its labor-incentive manufacturing”, he said, adding: “If Bangladesh can capture just one percent of that, it would result in decade-long growth of double digits for the country”.
Calling for more liberal visa regime for promoting trade relationship between the two countries, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Abdul Matlub Ahmad said that businesspeople from Bangladesh should get five-year multiple-entry visa to China.
Managing Director of Apex Footwear Syed Nasim Manzur in his speech said, “While we the South Asians do not scale up, China has shown the world what scale up can do”.
Noting that currently, it is difficult for Bangladeshi products to access the Chinese market due to various formalities and testing procedures, he also called for better access of Bangladeshi items to China.
While delivering a keynote speech on Trade and Investment Cooperation, Executive Director of Policy Research Institute Dr. Ahsan H Mansur said while much of Bangladesh’s FDI comes from the West and Singapore, there are ample scopes for increased Chinese investment in the country.
President of BEI Ambassador Farook Sobhan said Bangladesh put itself at the center of OBOR initiative. However, it would require strong efforts both from the private-sector side as well as diplomatic side.
President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Abul Kasem Khan also spoke on the occasion.