Bangladesh may lose its competitive edges as an emerging global manufacturing hub if the government fails to fix the country’s rickety infrastructures, business leaders and experts said.
They blamed slow implementation of the government’s decisions for lack of progress in the country’s major infrastructure projects including the Padma Bridge, flyovers and elevated roads and expansion of Dhaka-Chittagong highways.
“We’re losing our productivity and some precious time due to worsening traffic situation in the city and delay in movement of goods on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway,” said Asif Ibrahim president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The DCCI chief said infrastructure bottlenecks have now had a telling effect on the country’s business competitiveness, blunting its price advantages over its key international manufacturing competitors.
He said it takes almost 15 to 17 hours to transport goods from Dhaka to Chittagong, home to the country’s largest port, although the 200 kilometre road should be at best a four-hour journey.
Mr Ibrahim heaped praise on the government for improving energy situation since it took over power in January 2009, but he was critical of the new administration’s foot-dragging in implementation of key transport projects.
“Although the government has made some progress in the energy front, little has been achieved in terms of road communication. Dhaka-Chittagong Expressway should have been started by now,” he added.
Ibrahim warned that the country’s growth potentials could suffer and it might lose out on attracting billions of dollars of new foreign investment, if the infrastructures are not fixed immediately.
“Globally our main competitors are Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and India, all of whom have made much progress in infrastructures in recent time. But we remained in the same state where we were four-five years ago,” he said.
He urged the government’s various ministries to shun blame game in executing government decisions on infrastructures and expected the Prime Minister’s direct intervention in these issues.
Exporter’s Association of Bangladesh (EAB) President Abdus Salam Murshedy said the government should urgently develop industrial parks for the country’s fast-booming apparel sector.
“There was a demand for a Special Economic Zone and a Garment Pally (village) at Munshiganj and at the proposed site of the Padma Bridge. These projects were approved by the government long ago, but they haven’t been started yet,” he said.
He said the country’s confrontational politics have also added to the sufferings to the business community.
“Political stability is a key to export growth and economic development. But so far the practice of democratic culture is not up to the mark,” Mr Murshedy said.
Saiful Islam, president of the Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said poor transport infrastructures in and around the capital have also emerged as serious drags on the country’s growth.
“Dhaka is no longer a livable and workable city because of its poor traffic system,” he said, urging the government to quickly implement Gulistan and Kuril Flyovers, Dhaka-Chittagong Highway and Mass Rapid Transits.
“The manufacturers are paying a heavy price due to snail pace in implementation of these projects,” he said.
“Till now there is hardly any achievement in new transport project and maintenance of the existing highways,” he said and hoped the government would execute half of the road projects in the remainder of its tenure.
“The government has achieved phenomenal success in power generation by changing its energy policies. Likewise, we hope it will be able to scale up gas output as the authorities have already launched massive exploration drive,” Saiful added.