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Japan's Yanmar wants to produce combined harvester in Bangladesh

Star Business Report

Tue May 24, 2022 06:40 PM Last update on: Tue May 24, 2022 07:20 PM


Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque held a meeting with the delegations of ACI Motors and Japanese company Yanmar at the secretariat in Dhaka on Tuesday. Photo: Collected

Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturer Yanmar has expressed interest to set up a factory in Bangladesh to manufacture combine harvesters for reaping paddy.

Yanmar is willing to set up the plant in a joint venture with the country's ACI Motors.

A delegation led by Sogo Det, international business head of Yanmar, came up with the proposal in a tripartite meeting with a team of ACI Motors and Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque at the secretariat today.

Yanmar and ACI have decided to set up the plant as the combined harvesters of Yanmar have high demand in Bangladesh, the ministry said in a statement.

Sogo Det said they have an initial plan to go into production locally from early 2024.

In the meeting, Razzaque said the shortage of agricultural workers is intensifying day by day in the country. "Labours are not available during the harvesting period. Besides, the production cost in traditional methods is much higher and time-consuming too," he said.

Therefore, the government is working on mechanisation of agriculture on a priority basis and machinery is being supplied to farmers at 50 per cent subsidy across the country and 70 per cent subsidy in haor-coastal areas, the minister said.

Welcoming the initiative of Yanmar, Razzaque said, "We are emphasising manufacturing and assembling agriculture machinery locally. So, we will give all-out support to Yanmar in setting up factory in Bangladesh."

Yanmar, a Japanese diesel engine, heavy machinery and agricultural machinery manufacturer, was founded in March 1912 in Osaka and manufactured gasoline-powered engines the same year.

The company launched the world's first practical small diesel engine, the HB model, in 1933.

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TBS Report

29 May, 2022, 10:10 pm

Last modified: 29 May, 2022, 10:13 pm

More FDI in logistics sector sought


Bangladesh needs huge investment in the logistics sector to ensure sustainable development in line with its economic growth, experts said at an event on Sunday.

Highlighting the role of logistics to ensure smooth supply chain and export diversification, speakers at the daylong discussion programme on "Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Logistics" at the Westin Dhaka in the capital, urged developed countries to invest in Bangladesh.

Addressing the programme as the chief guest Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said Bangladesh had become a big market with a lot of skilled manpower.

"Bangladesh is a big market for about 170 million people and 45% of them have good purchasing power. Neighbouring India and China are also two big markets. There are all kinds of investment opportunities here," he said.

The minister said the government is providing special facilities for investment and it was possible to produce goods at a low cost in Bangladesh and easily export those to other countries.

During the panel discussion at the programme he programmes organised by the Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh (NCCI) in association with the Nordic Embassies-Norwegian Embassy, The Royal Danish Embassy, Embassy of Sweden and Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, Payra port authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Sohail said the port needed investment to make it more service-oriented.

Ziaur Rahman, regional country manager of H&M, said, that time was the biggest factor in the logistics sector. "The connection of the port with other channels needs to be maintained properly. All the special economic zones should be connected through railroad," he added.

At the discussion, Kamal Ahammed, head of finance and operations of Marks & Spencer, said Bangladesh was on the right path in achieving digital logistics. 

"We are in Bangladesh for 24 years, and directly for 16 years. In this time, there has been a remarkable change in digitisation, UD, and circular economy," he added.

With the digitalisation in logistic systems, lead time can be reduced by 10-15 days. 

NCCI President Tahrin Aman said the LDC graduation will bring about a new set of economic challenges and the support of Nordic countries will be instrumental in continuing on the upward trend.

"Logistics is one of the tools that play an important role in the change and improvement of economic indicators. It provides significant macro contributions to the national economy by creating employment, national income and foreign investment influx," he said.

He also added that the NCCI had organised this event recognising the bold effort of the government to invest in ports and terminals with modern facilities and technologies.

According to the keynote presentation of Angshuman Mitra Mustafi, country manager of Maersk, Bangladesh's logistics sector will be a market of approximately $90 billion by 2025.

At the event, speakers also said integrating 100 special economic zones and multiple port gateways by 2030 will help boost FDI and scale up the use of the inland waterways and railways.

Following the inauguration, four panel discussions titled "Capital", "Digitisation in Trade", "Processes" and "Policies and Roadmap Ahead' were also held.

NCCI President Tahrin Aman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the HSBC Md Mahbub Ur Rahman, among others, attended the programme.

Danish Ambassador Winnie Estrup Petersen, Norwegian Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen, and Swedish Ambassador Alex Berg von Linde also attended the function.

The programme was sponsored by HSBC, Maersk, DSV and H&M Group.

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Dhaka-mawa-bhanga expressway: Higher toll proposed

Previous rate still not implemented; collection to begin on July 1

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

Tue May 31, 2022 12:00 AM Last update on: Tue May 31, 2022 12:00 AM

"The increase in expressway toll will ultimately drive up the transport fare and people will have to bear it." Rustam Ali Khan Executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association


Even before implementing the toll rate fixed for Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway, the government is planning to increase it, a move that will ultimately push up the transportation cost.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has proposed four base toll rates -- Tk 18.40, Tk 25, Tk 33.71 and Tk 34.70 -- 84 to 250 percent higher than the rate fixed earlier.

The finance ministry in April last year approved Tk 10 as the base toll -- proposed by the Road Transport and Highways Division -- for an interim period, until the opening of Padma Bridge.

The per kilometre fee for a medium-size truck (two axle) is considered the base toll.

The authorities could not implement it mainly because the infrastructures required for this -- including four exits and entrances of the expressway and the toll plaza -- were not ready yet.

Meanwhile, observing the newly proposed rates are high, the Road Transport and Highways Division at a recent meeting opined for Tk 15 or 18.40 as the base toll.

However, a final decision would be taken following a meeting with stakeholders expected to be held next month.

RHD, which is the custodian of the country's first expressway, will start toll collection from July 1 and until a new rate is fixed, they will follow that of the interim period, officials said.

The toll would be added to the amount a vehicle has to pay for using the Padma Bridge which is in the middle of the expressway. 

The authorities have already fixed tolls for the bridge, which is around 1.5 times higher than the average toll paid by ferries plying the Padma river.


As per the interim rate of Tk 10 per kilometre, a medium-size truck would have to pay Tk 550 for using the entire 55km expressway.

The toll for a bus would be Tk 495 (90 percent of the base toll), for a car (sedan) Tk 138 (25 percent) and for a bike Tk 28 (5 percent).

For using the Padma bridge, a medium-size truck has to pay Tk 2,100 while Tk 2,400 for a bus, Tk 750 for a car and jeep and Tk 100 for a motorcycle.

If the base toll is Tk 15, a medium-size truck has to pay Tk 833 to use the expressway.

If the base toll is fixed at Tk 18.4, then it has to pay Tk 1,020 and if the base toll is at Tk 33.71, then it has to pay Tk 1,854. Rates for other vehicles will increase accordingly.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in March 2020 opened the 55km expressway, implemented at the cost of Tk 11,003 crore, making it the most expensive road (considering per kilometre expenditure) in the country.

During an Ecnec meeting in September 2019, she instructed the authorities concerned to collect tolls from long-haul vehicles on the national highways. The amount collected would be spent for maintenance.

RHD the next year had prepared a toll structure for the expressway following the Toll Policy-2014 and under the policy, the base toll is Tk 2 on each kilometre on important highways and Tk 400 for a bridge above 750 metres.

It was vehemently opposed by stakeholders including bus operators.

Then, following the recommendations of a committee, and instruction of Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, the division proposed Tk 10 as base toll and the finance ministry on April 4 last year approved it.


The Roads and Highways Department submitted four proposals for fixing the toll rate as the Padma Bridge is going to be opened on June 25.

One of the rates is Tk 18.40 per km -- which comes as the base toll according to the 2014 policy.

The department proposed Tk 33.71 per km, adjusting the inflation over seven years since 2014 when the toll policy was formulated and considering the quality of expressway compared to other roads.

Interestingly, it also proposed Tk 25 as base toll by just multiplying the interim toll rate with 2.5, without giving any expiation for this.

The department also mentioned Tk 34.70 as proposed by another committee earlier.

However, the Road Transport and Highways Division, after holding a meeting on May 19, found the proposed rates high and they recommended that the rate should not be more than Tk 15 (1.5 times higher than the interim rate) or 18.40 as per the toll policy, sources said.

Meanwhile, the division had called a stakeholder meeting on May 24 to discuss the toll rate.

But the meeting was postponed as, what the sources said, the outgoing secretary of the division Nazrul Islam wanted that the toll would be fixed after a new secretary takes over from June 4.


Sabuj Uddin Khan, additional chief engineer of RHD for Dhaka zone, under which the expressway falls, said that they would start collecting toll from the expressway from July 1 this year.

"A new toll rate would be fixed. If the new toll rate is not fixed before July 1, we will start collecting toll following the interim toll rate," told The Daily Star yesterday.

In August last year, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved a proposal to give Korean Expressway Corporation (KEC) the responsibility to collect toll from the expressway.

However, no formal agreement has been signed yet.

Asked about it, Sabuj Uddin said, "We are expecting to sign the contract [with KEC] within seven to 10 days. However, they have already started background work."

Replying to another question, he said the main infrastructure required for toll collection is completed.

However, KEC will introduce an automated system for collecting toll but they would require three more months to install it, he said, "Till then, we will collect toll manually."

Rustam Ali Khan, executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said the increase in toll will ultimately drive up the transport fare and people will have to bear it.

Rustam, also general secretary of Bangladesh Truck Covered-Van Owners Association, when they were planning to hold a press conference to request the prime minister to have the toll rate for Padma Bridge reduced, the news about the expressway's toll rate further concern them.

Contacted, Nazrul Islam, outgoing secretary of Road Transport and Highways Division, said the toll rate would be increased as the interim rate for the period until the opening of Padma Bridge.

Currently, a vehicle has to pay tolls for three bridges on this route. "With all three bridges included, the toll for the entire expressway would not be that much."

The proposed rate is lesser than the rate fixed for Dhaka Bypass expressway and Rampura-Amulia-Demra expressway. Both projects are under implementation, he told this newspaper last night.

People will benefit from the development. So, they have to pay for it like other countries, he said, adding that the authorities will try to keep it at "tolerable level."

Asked about possible impact on transport cost, Nazrul Islam said the bus operators think of increasing fares but they have to consider that the expressway would raise their trips and cut the travel time and cost.

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CPA signs agreement with Korean companies for Bay terminal

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  May 31, 2022 17:22:57 | Updated:  May 31, 2022 20:07:40

A formal agreement between the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) and two Korean companies was inked for the final design of the Chittagong Port Bay Terminal.

Under an over Tk 1.26 billion deal, the Korean companies-Dian Yang Construction and Engineering Company Limited and Kunhwa Engineering and Consulting Company Limited-  will prepare two complete designs and tender papers for the construction of the terminal and monitor the construction work.

The deal was signed at a city hotel on Tuesday.

State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury attended the event as the chief guest.

The CPA chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan and Kunhwa Engineering and Consulting Company Limited president Hwang Kyu Young signed the deal on behalf of their respective organisations.

The cost of the entire Bay Terminal project is estimated at $2.10 billion. The terminal is being constructed to enhance the handling capacity of the Chittagong Port.

Shipping ministry secretary Md Mostafa Kamal, among others, was present at the signing ceremony.

Speaking at the function, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that the Bay terminal is not a dream, rather it is becoming a reality now.

Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) of Chittagong port is going to be opened soon, he said.

 The government is making a plan to connect the rail-link to the bay terminal and Matarbari seaport, the state minister stated.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh became a middle income country in 2021, the minister said, adding that under the leadership of the Prime Minister, it will be a developed country by 2041.

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Time extension for Chinse funded Elevated Expressway approved

Staff Correspondent | Published: 16:07, Jun 01,2022

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council in a meeting on Wednesday approved a proposal from the Bangladesh Bridge Authority to make an upward revision of the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project funded by China.

Following the revision, the new project cost now stands at Tk 17,553.04 crore from Tk 16,901.32 crore, said planning minister MA Mannan at a briefing after the meeting at the Planning Commission.   

The tenure of the project has been extended by four years till June 2026 from June 2022 for the project, said the planning minister.

Exim Bank of China will provide a loan worth Tk 9,192.07 crore to the project.  

The meeting presided over by prime minister Sheikh Hasina physically first time since March 2020 also approved eight more project proposals with an overall involvement of Tk 2,665.21 crore.


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Indian logistics unicorn Delhivery enters Bangladesh

By Future Startup

May 7, 2022

IPO bound Indian logistics unicorn Delhivery has entered Bangladesh as the company looks to expand beyond its border, online activities of the company show. The company has appointed former Chief Business Officer of Grameenphone Kazi Hassan as Bangladesh Country Head in March this year, per social media posts. Delhivery previously said it plans to scale its cross-border business and enter Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. 

Delhivery was founded in 2011 by Sahil Barua, Mohit Tandon, Bhavesh Manglani, Suraj Saharan, and Kapil Bharati. The company is set to launch its initial public offering (IPO) for subscription on May 11 and is targeting a $5 billion valuation when it debuts in the public market. The company was last valued at $3 billion in the private market following a $277 million funding round from Fidelity, GIC, and others last May. Delhivery has raised about US$1.4 billion from its investors across 13 fundraising rounds until December 2021. 

Logistics is one of the fastest-growing verticals in Bangladesh. The fast growth of ecommerce has created new opportunities in the sector. Several local logistics players have raised meaningful capital over the past two years. Most recently, Paperfly, one of the leading players in the vertical, raised $12 million in Series B funding from Indian Ecom Express. Other notable local players in the vertical include ShopUp’s REDx, eCourier, Pathao Courier, etc.

While the market is still in its early days, the competition has been growing in the vertical with companies raising new investments. Delhivery entering the Bangladesh market is likely to intensify the competition. 

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Confidence Infrastructure inaugurates new geotextiles plant in Narayanganj

Driven by the inspiration toward building a sustainable future for all and the betterment of people and the country, CIL has established this plant to manufacture geotextiles that will be marketed under the brand name ‘GEOCIL’


Tribune Desk

June 5, 2022 3:10 PM

Confidence Infrastructure Limited (CIL), a sister concern of the country’s one of the largest conglomerates Confidence Group, has inaugurated its state-of-the-art geotextiles plant in its factory premises in Narayanganj on Saturday. 

Driven by the inspiration toward building a sustainable future for all and the betterment of people and the country, CIL has established this plant to manufacture geotextiles that will be marketed under the brand name ‘GEOCIL,’ reads a press release.   

Engr Rezaul Karim, chairman of Confidence Group, has officially inaugurated the plant at the inauguration ceremony as the chief guest, in attendance with the Confidence Group’s Vice-Chairman Imran Karim and Managing Director Salman Karim, along with other top officials of the company. 

Geotextiles are a special type of polymer fabric that help conserve resources and protect the environment used to enhance soil to protect the people and establishment from natural disasters like floods, prevent river erosion, strengthen coastlines and riverbanks, and are globally used for embankments. At the same time, it is a cost-efficient technology to mitigate the impact of flooding in coastal areas as it provides strength and flexibility to the soil.  

“Bangladesh is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries and highly vulnerable to climate change. People, especially those living in coastal areas, often struggle with natural disasters such as floods caused by heavy rainfall and river erosion. Therefore, to protect human lives, economic infrastructures, and maintain environmental stability, we are manufacturing geotextiles locally by setting up this plant with sophisticated technology available for manufacturing across all the production phases,” said Engr Rezaul Karim, chairman of Confidence Group, at the inauguration ceremony. “This new establishment will also help to improve the country’s manufacturing sector’s capacity.”      

Salman Karim, managing director of Confidence Infrastructure Limited, said on the occasion: “Our newly established plant will help the communities across the country by mitigating the risks of natural disaster. Simultaneously, it will contribute to expediting national economic growth as we are looking forward to creating more employment opportunities, improving people’s living standards, and exporting our products.” 

The plant has already started producing GEOCIL bags and Geo Mats with a dedicated group of highly skilled engineers and trained workers at the wheel, working with state-of-the-art European equipment and technology and advanced raw materials. 

GEOCIL is being produced in compliance with the specifications set by the Bangladesh Water Development Board, following all the national and international standards with the assurance of international quality through geosynthetic testing. The plant is aimed at serving both local and international markets. 

The factory sits on about 40 acres of land for the newly established Geotextile plant with other seven different product production facilities, and more than 3,000 people are working in the factory. The monthly production capacity of the newly established plant will be around 28,50,000 sq m or 11,50,000 bags. The annual turnover of Confidence Infrastructure Limited is around Tk1,200 crore. 

Confidence Infrastructure Limited is going to be one of the largest manufacturers of geotextiles with the virtue of its production capacity using European technologies. Now, the company has heralded a new dawn for the country’s manufacturing industry as it added a new dimension to its portfolio by setting up the new plant. 

Confidence Infrastructure Limited is a trusted name in Bangladesh’s tower, engineering, hardware, and steel structure sector. With its advanced technology and skilled resources, the company is significantly contributing to the growth of the country’s different sectors, including the electricity sector.

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Kazi Monirujjaman Monir

06 June, 2022, 01:45 pm

Last modified: 06 June, 2022, 01:58 pm

Padma Bridge opens door for new industries, employment

The south-eastern districts of the country were isolated for a long time because of the Padma River and no industrial establishments were formed due to a lack of communication


The Padma Bridge will not only connect two sides of the mighty Padma River it will also boost the country's economy with fresh industries and jobs, according to industrialists and locals.

Some last-minute tasks are nearing completion to ready the much-awaited bridge for its formal flag-off on 25 June.

The 6.15-km long bridge is expected to create huge economic opportunities as numerous public and private industries are being set up in the vast areas around the bridge.

The construction of Sheikh Hasina Nakshipalli, apparel factories, cold storage, gas stations, and industrial parks are going on in full swing with promises of new jobs for the unemployed. Expanding local business and trade, the bridge is expected to significantly boost the national economy.

The south-eastern districts of the country were isolated for a long time because of the Padma River and no industrial establishments were formed due to a lack of communication.

Industry owners had little to no interest in building businesses in these districts because the Padma River had to be crossed by ferry. The ferry crossing is a nightmare for business communication as it involves a lot of suffering including being stranded at the ferry ghat for days, loss of goods, and cancellation of shipments.

But industrialists started to rethink their plans once the progress of the Padma Bridge construction became visible. Several industry owners started buying land for the construction of factories in the area. After developing the land, they have now begun construction work of infrastructure.

Sheikh Hasina Nakshipalli is being developed on 120 acres of land in the Naodoba and Kutubpur areas of Shibchar upazila at the Jajira end of Shariatpur. In the first phase, the construction of boundary wall and land development work is nearing completion at Tk307.45 crore. The infrastructure building will start in the second phase.

Bangladesh Handloom Board is implementing the handloom village project intending to create employment for weavers, improve product quality, as well as boost the supply of textiles in the international market. Aside from building loom sheds, schools, mosques, and playgrounds will also be constructed under this project.

Visiting the project area On Sunday, labourers and engineers were seen working in full force on both sides of the approach road of the Shariatpur-Naodoba Padma Bridge. The vast land was being levelled by filling sand with excavators, a long boundary wall is being constructed, and the construction of a building is progressing at a rapid pace.

Chinmoy Sardar, project manager of Khokan Construction and Engineering Limited, said, "The sand filling work at Sheikh Hasina Nakshipalli would be completed by June. The work of the border wall is almost 50% complete. Now we are starting construction work of main structures."

"Some 2,000 weavers would be rehabilitated here in the first phase. There are plans to increase the number of weavers step by step. Sheds will be built for the weavers' accommodation and markets," he added.

Entrepreneurs also have plans to make sauces from Shariatpur tomatoes, process garlic into powder packets, and process the honey produced from black cumin in the region and export them abroad.

Mubarak Ali Sikder, chairman of Mastrade International Garments Ltd, said thanks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for providing immense economic opportunities to the people of South Bengal through the Padma Bridge.

"I am creating an industrial park by taking advantage of the Padma Bridge. For that I have started working with 40 bighas of land in the first phase," he said.

Badal Jamaddar of the Naodoba area said, "The Padma Bridge will draw a huge amount of vehicles from far and near. That is why I bought land to build a gas station with LPG and CNG gas support. Documents have been submitted for the license and the construction work will start after getting permission."

Ayesha Begum, a resident of Naria upazila, said, "We earn a living by working. Girls and boys from our area go far and wide to work in garments. Now, garments are coming near our home. We don't have to go far for work."

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M Jahirul Islam Jewel

06 June, 2022, 11:05 pm

Last modified: 06 June, 2022, 11:10 pm

Padma Bridge to create 2 lakh new jobs in Barishal: Chamber chief

Factory owners have also demanded that gas be brought through a pipeline from Bhola so that they can manufacture products in competition with Dhaka and Chattogram, said the Barishal Chamber chief

A vast array of new employment opportunities will emerge from different sectors in Barishal division after the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, according to regional business leaders.

Various manufacturing plants in ready-made garments, medicine, tourism, transportation, and commodity sectors are sprouting up fast in six districts of the division.

"In my estimate, at least 2 lakh jobs will be created soon after the opening of the country's longest bridge. Many garment factory owners have already started building infrastructure at different spots by the highway connecting Barishal and Payra Port," Saidur Rahman Rintu, president of Barishal Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

Factory owners have also demanded that gas be brought through a pipeline from Bhola so that they can manufacture products in competition with Dhaka and Chattogram, said the Barishal Chamber chief.

Around 50,000 people will get the chance to work in the apparel sector alone, while manufacturing plants of other companies will create opportunities for an additional 50,000 people, he said.

"The tourism sector will also employ a good number of people as there are numerous tourist spots in the division which will now be easily accessible to visitors because of the bridge," Saidur Rahman Rintu added.

Amir Hossain, the proprietor of Alex Shoes in Barishal, said that his factory production will be doubled once road communication with Dhaka improves.

"At present, around 50 people are working here but the number of workers will go up to 200 after the inauguration of the bridge," he said.

Tawhid Hossain Jamal, owner of Jim Food Products in Barishal BSCIC, said, "Around 150 people are working in my company now.

The number will double after the bridge opens. I will have to ramp up production as sending products to the capital will take much less time and hassle."

Mizanur Rahman, chairman of Fortune Group, has plans to open another agro-based factory in Patuakhali, where at least 1,000 jobs will be created.

"I have taken a six-acre plot in the Jhalakathi BSCIC area for opening a technology company where 10,000 people will get employment opportunities," he said.

Construction work on the factory will begin after the opening of the Padma Bridge as construction materials can be transported easily then," said Mizanur Rahman, who is also the president of the BSCIC Industry Owners' Association in Barishal.

A good number of agro-based firms are coming forward to open their factories in Barishal because of improved communication with Dhaka, he said, adding that businessmen are thankful to the prime minister for constructing the Padma Bridge.

"The number of public transports will increase five times in the Barishal region, which will require at least 10,000 more transport workers." said Kawser Hossain Shipon, secretary of the Barishal-Patuakhali Bus Minibus Owners Association, adding that the same situation will be seen in goods transportation.

"Huge employment will be created in the tourism sector as more people will swarm the tourist spots in the division round the year, particularly in Kuakata," said Motaleb Hossain, secretary of Kuakata Hotel and Motel Owners Association.

A number of new hotels and restaurants are under construction now and they will need more people for running their operations, he added.

According to 20 factory owners in various sectors, the Padma Bridge has paved the way for boosting their production. With the bridge opening, job opportunities in the region will also increase by 30-50%.

Payra Sea Port in Patuakhali will be more effective after the opening of the bridge, requiring more workers for maintenance work, according to businessmen concerned.

"The demand for healthy salt will surge as the supply capacity will increase because of the bridge. The salt factories will recruit more workers to boost production," said Salek Ahamed Saleh, a salt factory owner and former president of Jhalakathi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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MRT-5 to cost $5.05 billion, ADB study estimates

 FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Published:  June 07, 2022 08:33:06 | Updated:  June 07, 2022 17:37:21

An Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded feasibility study team has estimated US$5.05 billion cost for the proposed 17.40-km MRT line-5 (southern) route, insiders said on Monday.

The team has showed that the MRT-5 route will require $4.04 billion as its construction cost and $1.01 billion as indirect cost, including the costs of environmental management, engineering services and project management.

The Dhaka Mass Transport Company Limited (DMTCL) is going to undertake the MRT-5 (southern) route project for constructing the metro-rail line from Gabtoli to Dasherkandi in the capital, they also said.

The MRT-5 (southern) route is an extension of the MRT-5 (northern) route, whose construction project has already started.

The northern route will be built from Hemayetpur, the western part of the capital, to Vatara, the eastern part.

The MRT-5 southern route will be the third initiative of the government after taking up the ongoing metro-rail projects, including MRT-6, MRT-1 and MRT-5 (northern) routes.

The Manila-based lender ADB has already assured the government of financing the MRT-5 (southern) route.

Japanese development partner -- the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) -- is financing the ongoing MRT-5 (northern) route.

The DMTCL has already started construction of the northern route at a cost of Tk 412.38 billion, which is expected to be completed by December 2028.

According to the feasibility study, the DMTCL will split the proposed $5.05-billion cost MRT-5 (southern) route project into nine procurement packages to complete its construction works.

It suggested two packages (CP-01 and CP-02) for depots, two packages for underground sections (CP-03 and CP-04), one package (CP-05) for elevated section, one package (CP-06) for electrical and mechanical systems, one package (CP-07) for rail system, one package (CP-08) for depot equipment, and one package (CP-09) for rolling stock procurement.

The feasibility study suggested some 15 stations on the Gabtoli-Russel Square-Kawran Bazar-Hatirjheel-Niketon-Aftabnagar-Dasherkandi route.

A DMTCL official said they are scrutinising the feasibility study report, submitted by the consultant.

Based on the study, a detailed design will be carried out to select the route map and its necessary work-plan.

"We have a plan to complete the MRT-5 (southern) route construction works by 2030."

There is conflict (of the route) with other metro-rail lines and elevated expressway in some areas of the city, which has been addressed in the final feasibility study of the proposed project.

The complexities at Tejgaon, Hatirjheel, Niketon and Aftabnagar have already been managed in the feasibility study, the DMTCL official added.

The study has suggested constructing four station plazas - Shyamoly, Kawranbazar, Aftabnagar and Aftabnagar centre.

It has also suggested setting up multimodal transport hubs as well as Gabtoli and Dasherkandi stations.

Meanwhile, the DMTCL is also constructing two other metro-rails - the MRT-6 from Uttara to Motijheel and the MRT-1 from Airport to Kamlapur.

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Padma Bridge: A $500m boost to commercial vehicle market


Mahfuz Ullah Babu

08 June, 2022, 12:30 pm

Last modified: 08 June, 2022, 02:46 pm

The Padma Bridge is expected to create demand for thousands of commercial vehicles worth at least $500 million in the next five years.

A leading commercial vehicle company's insight reveals that the industry expects to sell nearly 700 large buses this year alone, to new and existing fleet owners, targeting several dozen direct highway routes between the capital and the south-western Bangladesh connected by the Padma Bridge.

The routes will keep adding 15% of the annual average or 400-500 buses in each of the next five years, as projected in the company's internal report.

"Around 3,000 large buses, estimated to be worth nearly Tk2,500 crore, are expected to be sold in five years because of the Padma Bridge," said a top executive of the company, seeking anonymity as he is not allowed to share his market research publicly.


Photo: Prime Minister's Office

Expressways and the Padma Bridge have radically improved connectivity between the capital and 19 south-western districts under Dhaka, Khulna and Barisal divisions.

The 8-10-hour bus trips between the farthest south-western districts and Dhaka are set to be shortened to 4-6 hours once the Padma Bridge opens to traffic on 25 June.

People will certainly love the quicker and hassle-free bus journey, and keeping this factor in mind, the transport industry has already booked at least 200 new large buses, targeting highway routes, said Abdul Matlub Ahmad, chairman of Nitol Motors Ltd, the assembler and sole distributor of Tata commercial vehicles.

"Understandably, the immediate investment is being observed in the bus segment," said Ahmad, who is also President of Bangladesh Automobile Assemblers and Manufacturers Association (BAAMA), "because it is the people who will prefer quicker trips most."

Gradually, though, the districts beyond the Padma Bridge will see more cargo trips as the bridge will have multiple impacts on the economy of south-western Bangladesh, he added.


Photo: Prime Minister's Office

Taskeen Ahmed, director of Ifad Automobiles, the assembler and sole distributor of Ashok Leyland commercial vehicles, said immediate investment in bus fleets could have been much higher if lockdowns, inflation and rising dollar prices had not hurt their finances and confidence.

His company has seen a 30% growth in bus sales in the first five months of 2022 and at least two-thirds of the increased demand is anticipated to have been related to routes connected by the Padma Bridge.

After the highway link, commodity transport from the south-western districts to the capital, especially perishable goods, will see a jump. It will create a demand for small trucks and pickup vans.

Ifad is also preparing to sell more pickups in the coming days. 


Photo: Prime Minister's Office

Abdul Matlub Ahmad said the biggest revolution that southwestern Bangladesh awaits is industrialisation.

With gas supplies through the pipeline, Khulna division is likely to emerge as the next hotspot for industrialisation in the country, while greater Faridpur and Barisal also will see an expansion of industries following the connectivity process coming into place.

Thousands of trucks and pickups will join the existing fleets later in the coming years, he said.

The Padma Bridge also will make Dhaka-Benapole cargo trips convenient and faster.

Today or tomorrow, the Padma Bridge will boost sales of commercial cargo vehicles, said Matlub, adding that if the anticipated economic development takes place in the southwestern Bangladesh, commercial cargo vehicles might outsell the passenger commercial vehicle segment in terms of units, and in terms of value it might not be much less than the bus segment.


Photo: Prime Minister's Office

Buses need high additional investment for the body and interior on top of the core chassis to be built, while cargo vehicles cost much less.

The industry players' estimate looks to be over Tk4,500 crore from bus-truck-pickup sales being added in five years by the country's largest ever bridge alone. 

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Saifuddin Saif

09 June, 2022, 12:15 pm

Last modified: 09 June, 2022, 03:06 pm

Japan to give Tk11,000cr for two projects


Tokyo will provide Dhaka with 16.58 billion Japanese yen or Tk11,306 crore, for two projects under Japan's 43 ODA (official development assistance) loan package.

Of that, 133,399 million yen or around Tk9,093 crore, will go to the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line-5 Northern Route) and 34,462 million yen to the Southern Chattogram Regional Development project.

Officials at the Economic Relations Department (ERD) said funding for the two projects was finalised at a virtual meeting on 31 May.

Representatives from their headquarters and the Dhaka office of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) attended the meeting.

Md Shahriar Kader Siddiky, additional secretary at the Economic Relations Division (ERD), said they are preparing to sign the loan agreement with Jica.

"The deal could be signed in June but the date is yet to be set," he added.

The Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line-5: Northern Route), will build out a 20km metro rail line. There will be a 6.5km elevated metro rail from Hemayetpur to Aminbazar and a 13.5km underground metro rail from Aminbazar to Bhatara.

In September 2019, the project received government approval.

The project will cost a total of Tk41,238 crore, of which Tk29,117 crore will come from Jica.

In 2020, Jica already provided 55,696 million Japanese yen (Tk4,528 crore) for the project. Now, the development agency is providing the second tranche of financing.

According to the implementing agency, Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), a feasibility study and basic design have been completed for launching the metro rail from Hemayetpur to Bhatara by 2028.

Work on various surveys, detailed design, and land acquisition is now ongoing. The detailed design is 51.60% completed, it added.

Land acquisition is 60% completed for the first east-west MRT corridor of Dhaka being constructed on this route.

Md Aftab Hossain Khan, project director of the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line-5): Northern Route said, "It will take another year to start construction on the route. The loan agreement with Jica will be signed for the second time next June."

"The agreement signed in August 2020 for the first phase of the project is being spent now," he added.

The standard of living for residents of Chattogram, Cox's Bazar and Bandarban districts, will also improve with the infrastructure development under the Southern Chattogram Regional Development project, the second project besides Dhaka's metrorail, partly funded by Jica.

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TBS Report

09 June, 2022, 03:10 pm

Last modified: 09 June, 2022, 03:15 pm

BRTA fixes bus fares for 13 routes passing through Padma Bridge

After fixing the toll for vehicles plying on Padma Bridge, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has now fixed bus fares for 13 routes in line with the revised toll.

Bus fares for the Dhaka-Bhanga-Madaripur-Barisal route and Dhaka-Rajoir-Gopalganj route would be Tk412.32 and Tk504.21 per passenger respectively, according to a notification signed by BRTA Director Sitangshu Sekhar Biswas.

Similarly, the fare on Dhaka-Gopalganj-Khulna route has been fixed at Tk649.36 per person, Dhaka-Jajira-Shariatpur route at Tk218.53, Dhaka-Barisal-Pirojpur route at Tk534.20 and Dhaka-Gopalganj-Pirojpur-Bagerhat at Tk628.25.

In addition, Dhaka-Barisal-Patuakhali route fare would be Tk501.52, Dhaka-Bhanga-Madaripur route would be Tk327.50, Dhaka-Gopalganj-Khulna-Satkhira route would be Tk633.05, and Dhaka-Bhanga-Faridpur route would be Tk288.39.

For Dhaka-Madaripur-Barisal-Bhola-Char fashion route Tk653.86, Dhaka-Buriganga second bridge-Shariatpur Tk219.88 and Dhaka-Madaripur-Barisal-Patuakhali-Kuakata route Tk698.29 per passenger have been fixed. 

The fixed fares for Dhaka-Madaripur-Barisal-Bhola-Char fashion route are Tk653.86, Dhaka-Buriganga second bridge-Shariatpur Tk219.88 and Dhaka-Madaripur-Barisal-Patuakhali-Kuakata route Tk698.29 per passenger.

Meanwhile, Sayedabad Bus Terminal has been identified as the station in Dhaka.

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Around $4.0b invested in private economic zones, says Kamal

Published:  June 09, 2022 18:05:55 | Updated:  June 09, 2022 20:28:28

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has said that the investment in private economic zones is about US$ 4 billion.

He disclosed the figure in his budget speech mentioning that allocation of land has been made to 196 entities in various public economic zones with a proposed investment of about US$ 25 billion.

He said that the establishment of 100 economic zones in the country is well in progress, news agency UNB reported. 

The administrative approval has already been accorded to the proposal for the establishment of 97 economic zones, of which the implementation work of 28 economic zones is underway.

In order to make the PPP project implementation and the activities of the PPP authorities more robust and dynamic, steps are being taken to enact the ‘PPP (Amendment) Act, 2022’. 

In order to enhance the confidence of investors in the projects under PPP initiatives investment development programmes are continuing, said Kamal.

The legal and regulatory framework of the PPP authorities is being simplified to implement large as well as social infrastructure projects under PPP in the future.

“We need more foreign investment to continue our growth. One of the key factors that work behind attracting the desired level of investment is the business-friendly environment,” said the finance minister.

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Mohammad Ali

11 June, 2022, 08:45 pm

Last modified: 11 June, 2022, 08:48 pm

FDI in Bangladesh jumped 13% after two years: Unctad

Last year, the number of international project finance deals in Bangladesh tripled compared to the previous year

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh rose by 12.9% to $2.9 billion – around the pre-pandemic level – in the last calendar year (2021).

In the same year, the number of international project finance deals in Bangladesh tripled to 14, reaching $4.7 billion.

The largest project was the construction of a container terminal in Ananda Bazar in Halishahar, Chattogram for $2 billion, according to the World Investment Report 2022 prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) released on Thursday.

Meanwhile, outward FDI from Bangladesh rose nearly seven times to $92 million in 2021.

In 2017, outflow of FDI was the highest – $142 million – since 1990.

Despite successive waves of Covid-19, FDI flows to the developing countries in Asia grew for the third consecutive year, with developing economies in Asia receiving 40% of global foreign investment inflows, said the report.

FDI flows to developing countries in Asia rose by 19% to an all-time high of $619 billion in 2021.

This marked the third consecutive year that investment flows to developing Asia grew despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a 35% plunge in global FDI in 2020.

"FDI flows to developing economies in Asia during the pandemic have bucked the global trend and underscored the resilience of developing economies in Asia," said James Zhan, director of Unctad's investment and enterprise division.

In 2021, FDI in least developed countries (LDCs) increased by 13% to $26 billion and flows remained concentrated, with the top five recipients (Mozambique, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Senegal, in that order) accounting for 69% of total FDI in the group.

Investing in Sustainable Development Goals

After taking a significant hit in the first year of the pandemic, international Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) investment jumped by 70% last year. But most of the recovery growth came in renewable energy and energy efficiency, where project values reached more than three times the pre-pandemic level.

In 2021, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and Malaysia launched or revised their sustainable finance taxonomies on sustainable finance. Together with Bangladesh and the European Union (EU), six of the 35 economies in the Unctad sustainable finance regulation database have developed a taxonomy.

A number of countries have started incorporating social development into their taxonomies.

The Bangladesh taxonomy pursues both climate and social development objectives, and covers cottage, micro and SME development and socially responsible investment, said the report.

Bangladesh along with China, Colombia, Nigeria and Turkey have developed guidelines for sustainable banking with the aim of directing more investment into key sustainable development areas, including SME development, job creation, social infrastructure and agriculture.

"While the 2021 recovery in value terms is positive, investment activity in most SDG-related sectors in developing economies, as measured by project numbers, remained below pre-pandemic levels," the report said.

"Across developing Asia, investment in sectors relevant for the SDGs rose significantly," the report said. "International project finance values in these sectors increased by 74% to $121 billion, primarily because of strong interest in renewable energy."

FDI in South Asia fell by 26% to $52 billion

South Asia was the only sub region in Asia to suffer a drop in FDI inflows in 2021 as the $28 billion merger and acquisitions registered in the previous year were not repeated.

Flows to India declined by 30% from its record level in 2020 to $45 billion in 2021.

Despite the slowdown, India jumped one position to seventh recipient of global FDI.

However, a flurry of 108 new international project finance deals were announced in the country, compared with an average of 20 in the last 10 years. The largest number of projects – 23 – was in renewables.

Major projects in India include the construction of a $13.5 billion steel and cement plant by Arcelormittal Nippon Steel and the construction of a $2.4 billion car manufacturing facility by Suzuki Motor. Both companies are based in Japan.

FDI inflow was the highest in the USA in 2021. The country attracted foreign investments of $367 billion, a 143% jump from 2020.

China and Hong Kong received $181 billion and $141 billion claiming the second and the third-highest amount of FDI.

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TBS Report

13 June, 2022, 10:25 pm

Last modified: 13 June, 2022, 10:27 pm

Most FDI offers come from China: Bida

Under the agreement, the two organisations will work together to increase foreign investment, especially Chinese investment


Most of foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals had come from China, said Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida). 

He said this while speaking at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bida and the Bangladesh China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCCI) in the capital on Monday.

Under the agreement, the two organisations will work together to increase foreign investment, especially Chinese investment.

Sirazul said in the 2021-22 fiscal year, China was in the first position in the registration for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bida.

China registered for an investment of $770 million. Korea has the second-highest at $161 million. 

"We can expect a lot more big investments from China," said Md Sirajul Islam.

Recently, a delegation from China expressed interest to invest in the health sector, he further said.

He, however, said private investment proposals from China at present are not satisfactory. 

"Officially, China is one of the biggest partners in the development of Bangladesh. China has been working directly on many of our government projects," he said. 

Sirazul said, "We need to tell foreigners that the investment environment in Bangladesh has improved over the last 10 years. If foreigners do not know, they will not invest."

Md Sirazul Islam said there was no need to be overwhelmed with the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published on 9 June.

He said the foreign direct investment saw 13% growth in Bangladesh. 

On the other hand, year-on-year FDI increased 43% worldwide, he said.

He said, "Our target is to bring the FDI amount to 3% of our GDP in 2025. It is now below 1%."

Al Mamun Mridha, joint secretary-general of the BCCCI, said more than 700 of their members were working to increase Chinese investment in the country at present.

"We want to hold an investment summit in China with the help of Bida," he said. 

Abhijit Chowdhury, an executive member of Bida, also spoke on the occasion.

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TBS Report

13 June, 2022, 10:50 pm

Last modified: 14 June, 2022, 01:13 pm

Nearly Tk7,319cr in tolls collected from two bridges: Obaidul Quader

Till May this year, the toll collection of Bangabandhu Bridge has been Tk7,135 crore and Tk183.8 crore for Muktarpur bridge, said Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.

The minister was responding to a question raised by Benjir Ahmed, member of parliament from Dhaka-20 constituency, at the parliament Monday (13 June).

Answering a question from Bangladesh Workers Party's Lutfun Nesa Khan, Quader said that dope test has been made mandatory with the application form from 30 January this year in case of issuance and renewal of professional driving licence.

Licences are not renewed or issued if the dope test is positive or if there is a negative comment, he added.

Responding to a question from Ruling party law maker M Abdul Latif, Obaidul Quader said that according to the Dhaka Urban Transport Network Development Study (DHUTS) report in 2010, 10.48% roads are included in the adjoining areas of the two cities of Dhaka.

The government has been undertaking plans to build a circular well-connected inner ring road around the Dhaka metropolis, Quader added.

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TBS Report

15 June, 2022, 10:30 pm

Last modified: 15 June, 2022, 10:36 pm

First underground metro rail work to begin in September 



Physical work on Bangladesh's first underground metro rail, formerly known as Mass Rapid Transit Line-1, or MRT-1, will begin within September this year, said MAN Siddique, managing director at Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd, said on Wednesday.

The 31.24km MRT Line-1 will start from Shahjalal International Airport and will end at Kamalapur via Natun Bazar, he said at a seminar at Bangabandhu International Convention Centre in Dhaka after receiving the MRT-1 licence from Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Amin Ullah Nuri.

The MRT Line-1 will have two parts – around 19.87km from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Kamalapur with 16.4km underground lines and around 11.37km elevated lines from Natun Bazar to Purbachal.

The line will have 21 stations – 12 underground and nine elevated. Besides, 25 trains will operate daily on the line. It will take only 24 minutes and 30 seconds to go from Dhaka airport to Kamalapur, 20 minutes and 35 seconds from Natun Bazar to Purbachal, and 40 minutes from Kamalapur to Purbachal.

A passenger will be able to catch a train every 2 and a half minutes on the Dhaka airport-Kamalapur route, while the wait time between trains on the Natun Bazar-Purbachal route will be 4 minutes and 35 seconds.

The project, which is expected to be completed in 2026, will cost around Tk 52,000 crore.

MAN Siddique said they have sought Jica's permission to start the main work on the underground metro rail depot.  That can be in the first quarter (July-September) of the next fiscal year, subject to the approval. The prime minister will then inaugurate the construction.

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Saifuddin Saif

18 June, 2022, 10:55 pm

Last modified: 18 June, 2022, 11:00 pm

Railway plans big. Will service also look up?

Broad gauge coaches will be doubled by 2025 as railway plans to phase out metre-gauge trains


The Bangladesh Railway targets collecting as many as 560 broad gauge passenger coaches in the next three years to expand, upgrade and unify rail services, according to official documents.

The government in March this year approved the purchase of 200 broad gauge coaches, as another 100 such coaches will be bought under the Padma Bridge rail link project. Besides, the railway has submitted a proposal to the Economic Relations Division recently for buying 260 broad gauge coaches.

Currently, the railway has 468 board and 1,217 metre gauge passenger carriages, while the metre gauge railway dominates the 3,093km rail network. But the metre gauge trains are obsolete, as the small coaches accommodate less passengers than the broad-gauge carriages.  

Contrarily, the broad-gauge rails – also called big trains – offer a comfortable and quick journey to more passengers.

Neighbouring countries such as India and Pakistan have almost phased out the outdated metre gauge trains. Ongoing major rail-related projects also do not have any space for the metre gauge trains, pushing the authorities to replace the old tracks with new ones.       

A railway masterplan mentions phasing out all the metre gauge tracks within the next 20-23 years.  

Once those projects such as Padma rail link, Jamuna rail bridge, Khulna-Mongla rail line and Joydebpur-Ishurdi dual gauge double line will complete, the railway will need more broad-gauge carriages to run the trains, says Bangladesh Railway Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder.

He told The Business Standard that the railway is replacing the metre gauge lines to board gauge or converting those to dual gauge for regional rail connectivity too.    

According to the railway, its west zone now only has broad gauge and dual gauge lines, as the east zone has only metre gauge lines.

There are 92 broad gauge locomotives in service now, said railway officials, adding 46 more such locomotives will be added to the fleet by 2025. A feasibility study is now going on for this project, which may cost around Tk2,681 crore.  

32 Chinese carriages expected in Nov 

Of the 100 broad gauge coaches bought under the Padma Bridge rail link project, 32 will reach Bangladesh from China in November, said project officials.

Other carriages will arrive later in phases.         

The railway is now preparing a tender for the 200 coaches approved in March by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec). The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the government are jointly financing the Tk1,074 crore project expected to be completed by 2025.      

The railway's proposal for purchasing 260 coaches, which is now with the ERD to find out foreign sources of finance, will be placed before the Planning Commission for approval. After conducting the feasibility study, the railway estimated the project cost at around Tk2,237 crore.

Once the foreign financing is secured, the implementation will begin as early as in the FY2022-23.   

Railway officials said 190 of the total 468 broad gauge coaches have run out their 35-year economic life.

According to the railway masterplan for 2016-2045, a total 4,211 broad gauge passenger coaches will be collected in six phases.

Do more double gauge trains promise better services?

Where India and Pakistan – parts of the same railway system launched by the British colonial government 170 years ago – have rapidly transformed their railway sector, making it the backbone of their transportation with a focus on speed and expanding networks, Bangladesh has lagged behind in both aspects.

The country's railway service and development have also been inconsistent with progress with its projects running as slow as its trains. There is also widespread discontent over the rail services and train timing in Bangladesh.

Public transportation experts say rail services cannot be improved until the authorities focus on skilling manpower alongside infrastructural development.      

"Bangladesh Railway needs skilled and required manpower to ensure modern services. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain standards for operational conditions," Prof Md Shamsul Hoque, a mass transport expert and a teacher at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), told The Business Standard.

He noted that the country's development philosophy is obsessed with purchase. But the focus needs to be shifted to the development of the system and overall services to passengers.

Noting different topics such as efficient management, maintaining the schedule and round the year maintenance, he said, "These issues, which do not require a huge investment, remain unaddressed. This is a major flaw of our development philosophy."         

However, Md Mamun-Al-Rashid, member at the Physical Infrastructure Division of Planning Commission, said the railway has taken initiatives to fill up 28,000 vacant posts.

"The prime minister has directed the authorities to recruit the manpower promptly. Besides, several projects have been taken up for skill development," he added.

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Japan keen to help Bangladesh build second Padma bridge

Padma Bridge a wonderful milestone in development journey of Bangladesh, says Japanese ambassador to Bangladesh 




June 22, 2022 11:06 AM

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki has said his country is keen to seize the opportunity to join the Bangladesh government’s ongoing construction efforts of a second Padma Bridge and that the first one was built due to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision and political astuteness.


File photo of Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki UNB

“I am sure that once the second Padma Bridge becomes a reality, the Japanese government and JICA will be in a position to consider the possibility of participating in the construction efforts by this government,” he told a group of journalists at his residence on Tuesday.

The envoy said right now the Japanese government’s position is to seize the opportunity to offer its cooperation to the government of Bangladesh in building a second Padma Bridge.

“I am sure that it (Padma Bridge) is going to be very impactful and successful, so a second Padma Bridge will be a reality,” he said.

Ito said whenever there is a possible participation to do quality infrastructure in Bangladesh, Tokyo remains ready to provide good technology and that Japan has so far provided assistance to build 134 small and large bridges across Bangladesh.

“The Padma Bridge is a wonderful milestone in the development journey of Bangladesh as it has been done on its own initiative and funding,” he said while extending his congratulations to the government and the people of Bangladesh for the completion of the Padma Bridge.

Terming the Padma Bridge a national dream and pride which demonstrates what Bangladesh can do for its economic development and stability, the envoy said it will truly fulfill the growth potential of Bangladesh.

The envoy said the year 2022 of Bangladesh would be remembered by the world with so many examples of quality infrastructure including the inauguration of the Padma Bridge this month and metro rail by end of this year.

Recalling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan in 1996, Naoki said she made a request to the Japanese side for cooperation on two bridges - Padma Bridge and Rupsha Bridge.

The envoy said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted the preliminary feasibility study for the Padma Bridge and constructed the Rupsha Bridge.

It is gratifying that Japan was able to be part of this (Padma Bridge) project at the very beginning in the manner of conducting a feasibility study, he said.

The ambassador, however, said it was rather unfortunate that JICA could not be part of financing the Padma Bridge though it would have been desirable for the Japanese government.

He highly appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s courteous decision to build the bridge with own funding and said it clearly demonstrates what Bangladesh is capable of doing on its own.

He said Japan would continue to stand by Bangladesh in its development journey until it fulfills vision 2041 and realizes the vision of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to build “Sonar Bangla”.

The envoy said Japan focuses on a number of mega projects in Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar in line with the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) initiative for the construction of an industrial corridor.

But, the ambassador said, he is quite sure that there would be more opportunities for Japanese investors to look into prospects outside the BIG-B areas as the Padma Bridge will enhance connectivity within the southern part of Bangladesh.

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EU to help Bangladesh in improving capacity, safety at Chittagong Port

Published:  June 23, 2022 18:01:41

Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) have agreed to accelerate the removal of idle containers from the Chittagong Port premises in order to increase cargo-handling capacities and improve health and safety situation in the port, which is the largest gateway for Bangladesh's trade with the EU.

In addition, approval would be issued for interchange of empty containers between Dhaka rail and river terminals.

Bangladesh has agreed a few months ago as suggested by the EU to launch a survey to assess the costs and benefits of up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh's logistics sector.

The issues were discussed at the 7th plenary meeting under the EU-Bangladesh business climate dialogue held in a city hotel on Thursday, reports UNB.

The dialogue aims to jointly facilitate trade and investment from the EU, Bangladesh's number one trading partner and the second largest source of FDI to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's exports to the EU amounted to around €16 billion in the 2021 calendar year, while the EU exports to Bangladesh were to the tune of €3 billion, according to a joint statement.

The plenary was co-chaired by the senior secretary commerce Tapan Kanti Ghosh and EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley.

It was attended by EU Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Dhaka - Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.

Representatives of the numerous Government authorities including the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Ministry of Shipping, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Bangladesh Bank participated in the dialogue, as well as some representatives from the EU private sector.

Both sides took stock of discussions in three priority fields, namely: tax and customs, shipping and logistics, and green business practices.

They agreed a joint committee will be constituted to examine the challenges and opportunities to simplify the customs clearance process for both express and non-express air cargoes.

The "green business practices" is a new topic in the dialogue, under which the EU side informed the government of Bangladesh about the upcoming supply chain due diligence requirements in Europe and encouraged adaptive actions with a view to ensure smooth trade with the EU as the number one market for Bangladeshi exports.

The EU side informed the meeting about two upcoming initiatives - the "EU-Bangladesh Meaning Business", which is conceived in the context of the 50th anniversary of the European Union (EU's) diplomatic relations with Bangladesh established in 1973.

It aims to showcase commercial sectors which are underexplored and where closer collaboration between Bangladesh and Europe could be mutually beneficial.

“Eurocham” in Bangladesh, a European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce, will also be established.

It aims to build bridges between the Bangladeshi and EU private sectors and serve as a centre of excellence connecting Bangladeshi public and private sectors with investors from Europe, to the benefit of smooth and sustained business relations between Bangladesh and the EU.

It would also help to navigate Bangladesh's transition to a post-EBA trade regime in the EU, according to the joint statement.

The Heads of Mission expressed their desire to continue working constructively in improving trade and investment relations with Bangladesh. The next plenary is scheduled for the first semester of 2023.

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Padma Bridge: A leap for Asian connectivity

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

Fri Jun 24, 2022 08:00 AM Last update on: Fri Jun 24, 2022 08:54 PM


This is a dream bridge which will not only establish the long-awaited direct road and rail communications between the capital and south-western parts of Bangladesh but also contribute to greater connectivity and trade among Asian countries.

The Padma Bridge will have significant economic impacts by cutting the travel time as well as freight costs, and thus bring prosperity for 21 districts in particular and the nation in general.

It will also work as a key component of the Asian Highway-1, boosting economic growth of Asia and improving the country's standing in the continent.

In August 2009, Bangladesh joined the network conceived by the United Nations with a view to setting up regional connectivity among Asian countries via a highway system of over 145,000km roads passing through 32 countries.

Bangladesh is connected with three Asian Highway routes named AH-1, AH-2 and AH-41 with a total length of 1,771km.

The AH-1, connecting Assam with West Bengal of India via Sylhet-Dhaka-Narail-Jashore, had two missing links: one is the Padma Bridge and another Kalna Bridge in Narail.

Of the two, the 690m bridge construction in Kalna was comparatively easier, but the 6.150km bridge over the mighty Padma was always a massive task in terms of the magnitude of the work.

With the opening of Padma Bridge tomorrow and Kalna Bridge's expected inauguration by September, those two missing links will disappear.

The Padma Bridge, longest in Bangladesh, will also pave the way for putting in place a new route for the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network, another UN initiative aimed at creating an integrated railway network across Asia.

It would be the fourth and the shortest TAR route, which would link India and Myanmar via the country and ultimately become a part of a network comprising 125,500km of railway lines serving 28 countries.

Apart from contributing to poverty reduction for the south-western region, the opening of Padma Bridge will help turn Kuakata into a major tourist destination.

The nation will also be able to make the most of Mongla port and under-construction Payra seaport, taking the burden off the Chattogram port, which often struggles to serve the fast-growing economy owing to inadequate facilities.


The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) conceived the Asian Highway project and adopted an Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network in November 2003.

The aim was to establish regional cooperation among the mainland countries of Asia, based on road transport linkages, according to the Road Transport and Highway Division's documents.

A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the accession of Bangladesh to the Asian Highway network on June 15, 2009. The government signed the Instrument of Accession on July 5 the same year.

The route of AH-1 is Guwahati in Assam-Tamabil-Sylhet-Shaistaganj- Narsingdi-Kanchpur-Dhaka-Mawa-Charjanajat-Bhanga-Bhatiapara-Kalna Ferry Ghat-Narail-Jashore-Benapole-Petrapole in West Bengal. Its length is 492km.

The route of AH-2 is Guwahati-Tamabil-Sylhet-Narsingdi-Dhaka South (Jatrabari)-Dhaka North (Banani Rail Crossing)-Joydevpur-Elenga-Hatikamrul-Bogra-Rangpur-Panchagarh-Banglabandha-Fulbari in West Bengal. Its length is 517km, excluding the 294km common part of AH-1 and AH-2.

The route of AH-41 -- Teknaf-Cox's Bazar-Feni-Moinamoti-Dhaka-Joydevpur-Hatikamrul-Banpara-Dasuria-Kushtia-Jhenaidah-Jashore-Khulna-Mongla -- is limited within the country for now. Its length is 762km, excluding the 162km common part of AH2 and AH-41.

"With the opening of Padma Bridge and Kalna Bridge by September, there would be no missing links and thus an uninterrupted connectivity would be established [on AH-1 route], which is a significant development," Shishir Kanti Routh, an additional chief engineer of Roads and Highways Department (RHD).

The most portion of the AH-1 route is two-lane and also it has four-lane stretches in urban areas and market places.

The RHD is implementing two projects involving Tk 20,500 crore to turn Kanchpur-Sylhet and Sylhet-Tamabil portions into four-lane keeping two additional lanes for slow-moving vehicles.

The physical work of the projects is expected to start this year.

Of the route, the portion from Kanchpur to Dhaka is now an eight-lane highway and Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga a four-lane expressway.

The RHD is going to take up a project to turn the 135km road from Bhanga to Benapole via Kalna, Narail and Jashore into a four-lane highway with Indian lines of credit.

Meanwhile, the department has almost completed construction of the 690m bridge over the Madhumati river at Kalna point with a cost of Tk 959 crore.

"Once all the projects are completed, the entire AH-1 route would be elevated to either primary [access-controlled motorway] or Class-I (four or more lanes highway)," said Shishir Kanti, also a member of RHD's Thematic Group on Regional Connectivity.


The TAR network is aimed at enhancing the efficiency and development of the railway infrastructure in Asia, according to the UNESCAP website.

An intergovernmental agreement on the TAR network was adopted in April 2006. Signed by Bangladesh in 2007, it came into force in June 2009.

At the beginning, three routes of TAR had passed through Bangladesh.

The route of TAR-1 is Gede in West Bengal-Darshana-Ishwardi-Bangabandhu Bridge-Joydevepur-Tongi-Akhaura-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar-Ghundhum-Myanmar.

It has two sub-routes -- Tongi-Dhaka and Akhaura-Kulaura-Shahbazpur-Mahisasan of India.

The route of TAR-2 runs through Singabad in West Bengal-Rohanpur-Abdulpur-Ishwardi to meet TAR-1.

The route of TAR-3 runs through Radhikapur in West Bengal-Birol-Dinajpur-Parbatipur-Abdulpur to meet TAR-1.

With the building of a double-decker bridge -- roadway on the top and railway on the bottom -- over the Padma river, the country enters a new era of railway connectivity.

Bangladesh Railway has already undertaken a project titled "Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP)" to connect the capital and Jashore with a 169km rail line via the Padma Bridge at the cost of Tk 39,246 crore.

And, following BR's request, UNESCAP agreed to incorporate the Dhaka-Bhanga-Jashore track as a fourth route of the TAR network in Bangladesh.

The route would run through Petrapole-Benapole-Jashore-Narail-Bhanga-Mawa-Narayanganj-Dhaka-Tongi before meeting TAR-1.

Transport expert Prof Hadiuzzaman said the Padma Bridge has opened a new route for Trans Asian Railway, through which the railway would be connected with a big network.

"This will open a new window for Bangladesh Railway," he told this correspondent recently, adding that the BR has to do a lot of things, including gauge conversions, to establish effective connectivity with TAR.

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Titu Datta Gupta

24 June, 2022, 11:05 pm

Last modified: 24 June, 2022, 11:18 pm

More than a bridge



Decades ago, popular folk singer Abdul Alim had depicted the devastating nature of the River Padma in a song: Sarbanasha Padma nodi, tor kachhe shudhai, bol amare tor kire ar kul-kinara nai? – Oh, all-destroying Padma River, I ask you: Tell me, don't you have a shoreline?

At last, the mighty Padma River could be conquered! People living across the mighty river are no more helpless as they have now got the shoreline!

From Saturday the people of southwestern region will drive straight to Dhaka by road. The long nightmarish wait for the ferryboat is over. They will now cross the river in just six minutes by the Padma Bridge.

The geographical divide with 21 districts in southwestern region comes to an end as soon as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opens the 6.15km landmark rail-road bridge to traffic Saturday. It was her own grit that pulled the dream project almost out of nowhere after the World Bank and other lenders had washed their hands of it, and made it happen, burying all scepticism and uncertainties.

It is a new dawn – not only for the southern region, but also for the entire Bangladesh – now that all the parts, divided by rivers, are well connected by road and rail.

During her first tenure as the prime minister 24 years ago, she had opened the Jamuna Bridge that connects the northern region with Dhaka.

The eastern region, which includes the Chattogram port city, was connected in early 1990s by bridges built over the Meghna and its branch Gumti.

It took 51 years since independence for the people of the southern region to have a direct road link with capital Dhaka and key port Chattogram. After six months, they can expect to cross the bridge by train too, when the rail link project ends in December this year.          

Travellers and transport operators are the first to breathe a sigh of relief as the bridge puts their uncertain wait for ferry to an abrupt end. "The Padma Bridge will save our time by 2-3 hours at the ferry ghat for each trip," said Soumitra Kumar, manager of Eagle Paribahan. Transport operators are now planning to use the bridge to cross the river instead of Daulatdia-Paturia ferry ghat to travel between Dhaka and Jashore.  

For Abdur Rahim Babu, Padma Bridge is a great relief as it will save his vegetables from rotting in trucks waiting for a ferry to cross the river and reach Dhaka. "There are instances that we waited for the whole day at the ferry ghat and then left the truckload of vegetables to rot there. The Padma Bridge will help us reach Dhaka market in 4-5 hours," a smiling Babu said.

According to the agricultural extension office, on an average 600 tonnes of vegetables are shipped to Dhaka every day from Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts, and delay at ferry ghat causes damage to these perishable goods. 

The bridge will expedite transporting goods to and from Mongla port in Bagerhat and Bhomra land port in Satkhira, facilitating export trades and easing supplies of essentials in the domestic market. Around 160 tonnes of shrimp are shipped to Dhaka every day from the Khulna region, while jute worth about Tk500 crore are exported through Mongla Port annually.  

Over 400 trucks carrying imported goods from India enter the country through Bhomra land port and more trucks keep waiting to enter, says Monirul Islam, deputy director at the Bhomra land port in Satkhira.

The bridge carries a gas pipeline which will pave the way for expanding the gas network to the south-western districts. Pipeline gas supply will encourage industrialisation and generate employment in the relatively underdeveloped region. 

"Furnace oil-based power generation is expensive. I think if gas supply is ensured, costs of electricity will decline and garment and other industries will be set up," Siddiqur Rahman Bulu, vice-president of Khulna chamber, tells The Business Standard.

This is the largest road-rail bridge of the country and 11th in the world. But the steel-structure is iconic not only for its hugeness. It stands out alone as a national pride, a milestone of achievement because of the story behind. 

It is a symbol of self-determination because of the embarrassment it endured.


When embarrassment grows into strength

The $3.87 billion self-financed Padma Bridge is now a reality, an iconic infrastructure, a symbol of national pride and self-confidence, not only because of its hugeness, but the humiliation it endured.

The story behind makes it a test case for the government to make the almost impossible possible. Completion of the Padma Bridge project is the only answer to all sorts of allegations, confusion and disbelief.    

The bridge could have been a reality at least six years ago had there not been the setback. The project was given a go-ahead in 2010 and scheduled to complete in 2016. Agreements signed with multilateral lenders and groundwork, such as land acquisition and rehabilitation on both sides of the river started. Then came the blow, like thunder out of the blue. The lead financier of the initially-estimated $2.97 billion multi-lender project, World Bank, claimed to have got "credible evidence" of a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials. It announced its withdrawal from the project on 1 July 2012, citing "inadequate response by the government".

Other lenders – the ADB, Jica and IDB – followed suit, leaving the government quite off-guard and embarrassed. The allegations were never proved either in Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission or in Canadian court, but criticisms continued even long after the project was revived and construction finally started in December 2015. 

It was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who stood out alone and asserted in parliament that the Padma Bridge would be built with own finances. It was an utter surprise announcement and even most of her cabinet colleagues were not convinced that such a huge project could be possible without World Bank's support. Corruption allegations, suspicion, and disbelief dominated the discussions about the Padma Bridge project in newspaper columns and television talk-shows in those days.But the prime minister stood firm and the project work proceeded more even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was a herculean task and readying it for traffic was a real challenge in all aspects – both financial and technical.

The government decided not to take loans from funding agencies and planned to complete the prestige project from its own fund through budgetary allocations. 

There was a wave of enthusiasm among people, with instances of schoolchildren saving tiffin money to raise funds, government staff donating one-day salary, insurance sector offering support from their fixed deposits, stock market suggesting release of infrastructure bonds and so on. 

To meet the foreign currency component of the project, there were suggestions for issuing sovereign bonds, borrowing from the global financial market and even using a part of the central bank's reserve holding. 

The government took a challenge and proceeded with the self-financing plan, keeping aside money in the annual budget for the Padma Bridge project. The construction began in December 2015.

The length of the main bridge was revised upward and new components were added, raising the cost to Tk30,193 crore from Tk10,161 crore initially estimated in 2007. 

The Bridges Division signed a loan agreement with the Finance Division for Tk29,900 crore to meet the expenses of the bridge project. The amount is repayable with 1% interest in 35 years in 140 instalments. The expenses are expected to be realised in 30 years from tolls given the flow of vehicles expected to cross the bridge in coming years.


Strength of being connected

Impacts a bridge can have on an economy are profound. The Federal Reserve of San Francisco calculates that $1 spent building a bridge and the corresponding roadwork leads to $2 of economic growth in the interested area. 

Be it Øresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden, or Turkish Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge over the Bosphorus River, or the likes of the Ohio River Bridges Project in the US, Hong Kong-Macao Bridge in China, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan, or Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge over the Amu River. All are examples of enormous bridges with wide ranging impacts on the economy and life of the countries. 

The Bangandhu Bridge was built on the River Jamuna 24 years ago and its construction cost was expected to be realised by 2034 only from tolls collected from vehicles crossing it. Collection from tolls has already surpassed the construction cost and the surplus amount will be used to repay loans for the Padma Bridge, bridge division officials said.   

Economic benefits of the bridge on the economy of northern districts have not studied exclusively, nor is there any such study on the impacts of Meghna and Gumti bridges on the eastern region, which is blessed with second units of parallel bridges opened three years back to match with the four-lane Dhaka-Chattogram highway.  

Poverty data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) might give a broad hint how a bridge makes the difference. Extreme poverty rate dropped 17.7 percentage points in Rajshahi in five years to 2010, while the decline was 8.9 in Barishal during the period.

The 4.8km Bangabhandu Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge, built at a cost of $900million, was opened to traffic on 23 June 1998. It linked the country's more impoverished and less developed northern districts with the rest of the country, and brought about dramatic economic and social changes in the region.

Before the bridge was constructed, the only way to cross the Jamuna River was by slow-moving ferry boat with traffic jams at the ferry terminals causing a journey between Dhaka and Bogura to take 12 to 36 hours. The bridge reduced the travel time to 4 hours.

Chinese and Korean firms are engaged in the Padma Bridge work. They made the comments to the media the week before the grand opening of Bangladesh's flagship road infrastructure project.

Appreciations pour in from foreign diplomats 

South Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun said that dream is a glorious reality today. It is a very proud history-making project. 

Li Jiming, ambassador of China to Bangladesh, said three words come to his mind when he thinks about Padma Bridge – courage, determination and prosperity. 

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley in a message said the inauguration of the Padma Bridge is going to be an "unforgettable moment" for the country's development. 

Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami has said the much-cherished Padma Bridge will help contribute to greater connectivity between the two countries and in the sub-region supporting the BBIN initiative.

Appreciations also poured in from Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and     the US Embassy for Bangladesh's efforts for promoting regional connectivity.

The Padma Bridge now links the southern region with capital Dhaka and major port of Chattogram. It will bring Mongla Port, the less utilised second port, in the spotlight for overseas trades. 

The bridge connects Dhaka with greater Barishal, Jashore and Khulna by direct road right now and by rail in December, for the first time in the railway's 170 years' history in the country. 

Being a part of envisaged Trans Asian Highway (N-8) and Trans Asian Railway, it will facilitate trades with India, Nepal and Bhutan, widening access to Mongla and Payra ports and two major land ports – Benapole and Bhomra. 

Mawa and Jazira – two points across the river – will grow into new towns with scores of resorts, shops, recreation centres, attracting visitors and creating jobs. 

It will be instrumental in the formation of an economic corridor linking Dhaka with Madaripur, Faridpur, Jashore, Khulna and Barishal, maximising use of Mongla and Bhomra ports.   

Apart from the economy, the bridge will give the people of the south a faster access to better healthcare in Dhaka and save lives. 

Crossing the Padma Bridge itself is a thrill for travellers, who will now be attracted more to tourists' spots in the region, including the Sundarbans.   

All put together, the contributions of the bridge to the national economy would amount to 1.2% of GDP and add 2.5% to regional GDP.   


To make full use of the connectivity of this region with India, Nepal and Bhutan, we need Padma Plus. Photo: Mumit M

The lessons

For as many as 80 young engineers, it was a lifetime achievement to get involved in such a huge and challenging infrastructure project at the very beginning of their professional career. From river training to dredging, piling, dumping geo bags and stones, and using huge modern equipment never used before in the country – all gave them rich experiences for the whole professional life ahead of them.   

Project Director Md Shafiqul Islam said the young engineers, while working in this project in various disciplines, got in touch with skilled professionals from as many as 30 countries. That was a priceless learning for them for future work, he believes.

Civil engineer Prof M Shamim Z Bosunia, who chairs the government's expert panel on Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project, also speaks highly of local engineers who worked in many capacities from soil testing to designing to construction to supervision, and gained valuable experiences.

"This experience enriched them. They in turn earned credibility," he said.     

Building this bridge on the fierce Padma River was a challenge. There are bigger bridges in the world than the Padma Bridge, but there is no bridge on a river as big and as unpredictable as the Padma River, creating a wide array of technical and other challenges for engineers starting right from building the foundation. The bridge is 70 to 80 feet above ground-level. 

The Padma is an almost uncontrollably mighty river, and taming its strong stream was a challenge throughout the project work, requiring huge dredgers and hammers used for the first time in Bangladesh. 

Local expertise developed from the Padma Bridge project could well be replicated in building such big bridges, including the one planned over the Meghna to connect Chandpur and Sharitapur to give the southern region faster access to Chattogram Port, in future, hopes Prof Bosunia.

That is the added benefit of Padma Bridge, on top of a lot of other returns.

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New Bangladesh bridge avoids pitfalls of external debt trap, regional rivalries



Debarshi Dasgupta

India Correspondent



JUN 24, 2022, 12:06 AM SGT


Workers preparing to put the final touches on the Padma Bridge in Bangladesh on June 8, 2022. PHOTO: AFP


The bridge incorporates a four-lane highway on an upper level along with a single-track railway on the lower level. PHOTO: AFP

KOLKATA - Bangladesh will inaugurate a key bridge over the turbulent Padma river on June 25, more than two decades after work on it first started, during which time financial, political as well as technological hurdles had threatened its completion.

The unveiling of the bridge - Bangladesh's biggest infrastructure development project so far, that has been dubbed a "symbol of national pride" - marks a key milestone for the country.

But it also accentuates upcoming challenges for this South Asian country as it seeks to avoid debt-related risks and geopolitical rivalries associated with external borrowing and foreign collaboration necessary for Dhaka to complete other such high-profile projects.

While Dhaka engaged a Chinese firm to build the bridge, its construction - estimated to have cost around US$3.9 billion (S$5.4 billion) - was funded entirely by the Bangladesh government.

The decision to steer clear of foreign funds sourced bilaterally or from multilateral agencies was seen as a bold move, especially after the World Bank withdrew its financial support of around US$1.2 billion for the project in 2012 amid corruption allegations that were later dismissed in court.

Encouraged by its growing economy and foreign exchange reserves, the Bangladesh government also rebuffed Chinese and Malaysian proposals to fund the bridge's construction.

The 6.15km bridge, incorporating a four-lane highway on an upper level along with a single-track railway on the lower level, will accelerate Bangladesh's economic growth by boosting connectivity between its less-developed south-western region and the more developed parts that lie east of the river, including its capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong.

Dr Ashikur Rahman, a senior economist at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, described the bridge's completion as a "big boost to state capacity".

"Prior to this, our bureaucracy never had the capability to execute such a mega project… The fact that we are finally at the end of the road underscores the long way we have come," he told The Straits Times.

But with other infrastructure development initiatives in the pipeline, including those under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), certain experts have raised concerns about the viability of some projects involving significant external borrowing.

Such projects include the country's first nuclear power plant at Rooppur being built at a cost of over US$12 billion, much of which is financed by Russia, and a high-speed rail link between Dhaka and Chittagong estimated to cost more than US$10 billion that China is keen to fund and build.

Noted Bangladeshi economist Professor Muinul Islam expressed concern about the viability of both these projects and described the former as the "worst kind of white elephant project" in an interview last month in the country's The Daily Star newspaper.

This comes at a time of troubling economic indicators such as the country's growing ratio of its external debt to its gross domestic product that has been rising since 2016; it increased to 21.8 per cent in 2021, up from 19.5 per cent in the previous year.

Rising import costs also saw the country's foreign reserves fall below US$42 billion in early May, the lowest in 18 months, before climbing up marginally later in the month.

Dr Rahman added that priority should be accorded to projects that enhance the productivity of local businesses and help the country’s export sector gain more global competitive edge, besides helping Bangladesh earn foreign revenue through measures such as tourism and boosting its energy security. “That is how we will make sure that we don't become Sri Lanka.”

However, it is not just debt traps that Dhaka must watch out for but also rivalry between its top trading partner China and its largest neighbour India, as well as the United States.


In May last year, China's envoy in Dhaka Li Jiming warned Bangladesh, which unlike India is part of the BRI and is the second-largest recipient of Chinese loans in South Asia under the initiative, against joining the Quad. The Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, comprises Australia, the US, India and Japan. He said doing so would "damage" bilateral relations, prompting a rejoinder from Dhaka stating it would "determine the course of its foreign policy in the interest of its people".

Even the Padma Bridge has become enmeshed in this power struggle, with Chinese state media attempting to claim it as part of the BRI, an assertion the Bangladeshi government dismissed earlier this week.

Dr Sujit Kumar Datta, the chairman of the Department of International Relations at the University of Chittagong, said Dhaka should avoid getting entangled in any military or strategic rivalry between China and India or the US.

"Bangladesh's involvement in the BRI should focus purely on our economic development," he told The Straits Times, adding that balancing competing power interests will become more challenging as rivalries become more entrenched.

“With Bangladesh’s economic status developing further, it is important our policymakers now emphasise on adopting an independent policy.”


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