Monday, 22 January, 2018, 3:55 PM
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Regional connectivity a must to boost trade

Published : Saturday, 6 January, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 120

With trade becoming the top priority of almost all nations, it's indeed a sensible step to build a cohesive regional partnership, not only to cement political bonds but also to consolidate economic ties. After carrying out field level assessment last December, a World Bank team reportedly asked the Bangladesh Land Port Authority (BLPA) to start formalities, including setting up accounts, procurement and requesting budget for expediting the implementation of the Regional Connectivity Project-1.
It has been learnt that the international loan provider will give USD 150 million at zero per cent interest with 38 year term, taking 0.75 per cent as service charge. It's widely believed that the project will link Bangladesh with India, Nepal and Bhutan with three land ports modernized to facilitate more trade, cutting down the red tape and Byzantine layers. Naturally, this uplifts our spirit because Bangladesh's aspiration to become a middle income country will only materialize when she can ensure a growing contribution in regional trade.
However, in modern times, smooth flow of commerce happens when impediments and barriers are at their minimum. To ensure this, regional connectivity agreements are crucial. At the heart of this project is the objective to trigger more commerce among the nations involved and, welcoming this, we want to be clear that in the name of trade bonanza for all, only one nation does not get the benefits while others simply become markets.
Simultaneously, the clauses of the project, items to be traded, plus the volume of commerce for each country need to be openly discussed. Just the saying 'promoting commerce among all nations' is ambiguous.  Regional cooperation is crucial in a globalized world though arbitrary controlling of commerce under false pretences will create disparity, leading to skewed trade.
According to reports on the regional connectivity, a request has been made to set up the 'key consultancy posts' which needs more clarification.  That said - if large amount of money leaves the country through hired international consultants then the zero interest rate hardly becomes a boon. Again, there has to be full disclosure as to what roles are being played by hired advisers with rationale given as to why foreign consultants are being hired instead of local ones.
To be forthright, this country has seen many international projects ending with a fizzle only because the wool was pulled over the face of the masses by impenetrable technological rhetoric masking questionable operating procedures. Regional connectivity for trade is always a 'win for all' move, provided the target is to ensure all nations are equally benefitted.

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