Dhaka – Chittagong economic corridor, new economic lifeline

AKM Asaduzzaman Patwary,   Research Fellow(R&D),  DCCI   
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Rationale for economic corridor:

The economic corridor is dubbed as the spine of economic growth and vehicle of intense and multifaceted economic mobility. In the context of economic and trade globalization, the cross border trade connectivity is undoubtedly inevitable to build. Economies which are accelerating to high growth regime need to broaden and strengthen their trade and economic integration regionally and globally to bring in value in trade and industry and create value for many nations. Many countries in Southeast Asia are looking to massive and drastic economic transition in order to connecting sub regional and global value chain and paving the way of multimodal trade facilitation. With this philosophy, countries are building cross border high speed road, rail, water network in form of economic corridor resulting inclusive socioeconomic landscape. The economic corridor has removed the geographic, non-tariff barriers and eased trade and human

Figure: A graphical view of proposed Dhaka Chittagong expressway.

movement in many countries and brought momentum in their macro-economic engagements. The economic corridor made so far enabled GDP growth featured by trade, industry and investment growth across many regions.

In Asia, ADB first pitched the economic integration concept through economic corridors. Over the time, many regional economies have reaped greater economic and cross border trade success through economic corridor engagement. In South East Asia, Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Thailand are frontier economies which first actually introduced and joined the economic integration almost couple of decades earlier.

The economic corridor made so far enabled GDP growth featured by trade and industry and investment growth across this region. Vietnam increased their total yearly export to around $150 billion upon joining their first country economic corridor East West economic Corridor engaging Myanmar, Laos, Thailand. If these countries can perform outstandingly well, why Bangladesh should remain behind in building economic corridors.

Potential of sub-regional cooperation of Bangladesh and DCEC:

Because of geographic location, Bangladesh can play a significant role in intensifying regional trade, business through alternative and strong sub regional transportation system in terms of direct and shorter communication links by rail, inland water transport and road.

  • Bangladesh has the opportunity to benefit from increased cooperation through the region. Geographically located at the centre of the South Asia Sub regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) countries, Bangladesh has borders with India and Myanmar and is in close proximity to the landlocked countries of Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Deficiencies in key infrastructure (port, rail, road, energy, inland water and ICT) seriously hamper export growth, investment and limit opportunities for Bangladesh as well as for transport integration with Bangladesh’s immediate and near neighbours.
  • The main highway is heavily congested in the vicinity of numerous towns along the route.
  • Bangladesh has almost 4 billion yearly trade loss and $6 Billion of economic loss due to inadequate and feasible transport network communication.
  • Bangladesh has got huge human resource and delinked business and regional industries which are not being flourished and connected to national and global supply chain due to vulnerable logistic and transport connectivity.

Proposed DCEC:

  • Dhaka-Chittagong Economic Corridor (DCEC) comprises the two largest cities in Bangladesh, Dhaka the administrative capital and Chittagong the Commercial capital have main port and the land, waterways and transport links in between. The corridor has a land area that comprises only 16% of the national area, but contains 30% of the population and accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP.
  • The transport and energy infrastructure linking the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong is the mostly used in the country.
  • About 60% of this tonnage is import/export traffic emphasizing its critical importance to Bangladesh’s external trade.
  • Altogether the corridor carries about 50% of Bangladesh’s imports and exports.
  • The proposed corridor is 12 lane extended Dhaka Chittagong highway coupled with fastest moving Dhaka Chittagong Express way with curtailed travel time and more tracks for cargo vehicle and covered van with frequent mobility

Future Growth Scenario:

Upon implementation of DCEC, the likely economic scenario and changes are as follows:

  • Effective and wider use of SEZ and trade mobility between Dhaka and Chittagong and other parts of the country.
  • Cross border trade and maritime trade will grow by 60 percent.
  • Other districts in between Dhaka and Chittagong like Feni, Comilla, Chandpur and Narayangonj will be economically vibrant and engaging.
  • Industrialization and trade regionalization, relocation within this connectivity will grow larger.
  • Dhaka and Chittagong movement time will be reduced to 3 hours or less.
  • Chittagong and Dhaka will be administratively decentralized.
  • Higher per capita income and expected double digit growth will be eased and facilitate to be the trillion Dollar economy and developed economy by 2041.
  • Industry and GDP ratio to 40 percent and new employment of 11 million.

Position of economic coordinator in other major countries:

East Asian economy Malaysia has so far undertaken 5 major in country Economic corridor for inclusive in country communication network for business, trade and strong value chain.

The emerging economy Vietnam has economic corridor with Cambodia as well as other four corridors are being considered in Vietnam to connect different states of China to bring the bilateral cost of trade down to minimum.

India has undertaken 5 Industrial and economic corridors to enhance in-country transport, trade and economic mobility and considering some sub-regional and regional economic corridors to reach out the trade and business market of three members of  BCIM. This corridor engagement can facilitate another 2.5 percent GDP growth for India by the year 2022.

In the view above, Bangladesh is required to underscore the need of economic Corridor of Dhaka and Chittagong to create in-country economic dynamism, low lead time foreign trade expansion, maritime trade growth as well as 2 percent plus GDP growth which will in turn help connecting BCIM and Trans Asean network economic corridors as well as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) corridor ending up easy and low cost of doing business in the regional hub. Meanwhile China and Pakistan signed for 2000km long China and Pakistan economic corridor worth of 46 Billion which will be economic booster for Pakistan connecting Southeast Asia.

With the pressing need of time this DCEC, we must sock up and exert all-out effort and solidarity for this proposed DCEC implementation since this route is the most convenient and short distanced and the basis to exploit the BCIM and ASEAN market corridor potential and access to them. Bangladesh has got long standing economic visions to be a middle income country by the year 2021 and developed economy of $2.5 trillion GDP by the year 2041 and this long haul journey requires regional and sub regional economic connectivity through building economic corridors in no time.

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