The Daily Star, June 18, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladehs
The ADB (Asian Development Bank) outgoing country director has stressed upgradation and opening up of Bangladesh’s premier Chittagong Port for the usage of eastern Indian states and other landlocked neighbouring countries to develop it a regional hub, which could be a major driver for the country’s economic development.
“Chittagong Port may be the regional business hub if it can be connected with other regional ports,” Hua Du told the regular monthly luncheon meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) at a city hotel yesterday.
The ADB representative in Bangladesh is scheduled to complete her 6-year tenure very shortly.
Hua Du said all the sector level reforms in the Chittagong Port have improved its efficiency by 30 percent and cut costs by 40 percent recently.
In her prepared speech on ‘Bangladesh Economy : Opportunities and Challenges’ she said with the current growth trends, the country has the potential to reach the threshold of a middle income country by the year 2020.
“With higher GDP growth rates of 8-9 percent a year, Bangladesh can even become a middle income country earlier than 2020,” she said.
She said she is impressed by the pace of unprecedented governance reforms that Bangladesh has achieved during the last 18 months.
“We sincerely believe that the December general election will lay the foundations of a democratic government under which debates on key economic issues will be held in the parliament instead of through hartals and blockades in the streets,” Hua Du said.
She said the country needs big investment in energy, power generation, roads, railway and ports to attract further investment and ensure industrial development and employment creation through private sector participation.
A hopeful Hua Du said a robust private sector is the key to attracting investment, entrepreneurship and technological innovation needed for quick economic growth. It is obvious that without private sector investment, jobs and economic opportunities for thousands of people cannot be ensured, she added.
The government, therefore, needs to continuously invest in infrastructures and social development and to further liberalise the policies and regulations and remove obstacles to inclusive growth and private sector driven development efforts, she suggested.
She said the climate change poses a major development challenge for Bangladesh.
Rising sea levels and exposure to climate disasters could result in over 70 million people being permanently or temporarily displaced, she said.
President of AmCham Syed Ershad Ahmed chaired the session.