The Padma multi-purpose bridge, once in full operation, will add 2.5 per cent or $10 billion to the national GDP, which will be three times higher than the project cost, a top economist has said on Tuesday.
“Padma Bridge will help achieve a developed, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable Bangladesh in line with Vision 2041,” stated Prof Mustafizur Rahman.
The bridge is going to be a key driving force of the economy as it will end the last geographical divide, start a new era of a unified economy and cut poverty in 13 districts having poverty rates higher than the national average, he explained.
He pointed out that the mega structure’s main strength will be investment connectivity.
The economist was speaking at a dialogue on the economic impacts of the Padma Bridge organized by the Awami League’s Industry and Trade sub-committee at a city hotel four days ahead of the formal inauguration of the bridge.
The existing approved cost of the project is Tk 301.93 billion, which may soar to nearly Tk 93,000 billion, according to Prof Mustafizur.
Economists said the bridge should not be considered as a transport corridor only, it has to be turned into an economic corridor.
The government will not only collect tax from bridge tolls but also other sources after intensified economic activity.
Some 7.5 lakh jobs will be created for the south and southwestern people after Padma Bridge starts to transform the country’s communication infrastructure.
Agrani Bank Chairman and a noted economist Dr Zaid Bakht thinks the most benefit from the mega infrastructure will be time and cost-saving.
He stated that it will work as a growth stimulus in all sectors across the board, but more investment both from the public and private sectors will be required for that.
He informed that it was Agrani Bank that took the responsibility of providing $1.5 billion in foreign currency to the project implemented with the country’s own resources. But it has created no problem for the bank or the country’s macro-economy.
He sees entrepreneurship development in the southern part as the main challenge after the opening of the bridge.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman emphasized other parallel work like the ease of doing business or other work to increase the return from the structure.
Communications expert Dr Shamsul Haque said the bridge along with the expressway will act as an impetus for the economy. He also suggested turning all the highways into expressways.
Another economist Jamal Uddin observed that the bridge will help remove income and regional inequality.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Jasim Uddin thinks that not only 21 districts but the whole of Bangladesh will get benefit from it.
By 2041, the country’s exports are expected to cross $300 billion, he said, adding that only Chattogram port won’t be able to do the job other southern ports have a big role to play to that end.
Adviser to Prime Minister Salman F Rahman echoed Prof Mustafizur and said the project has to be seen as an economic corridor.
According to him, the most important aspect will be the scope of investment the bridge will create.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi was the chief guest of the event. “People are as big as their dreams are”
“With the completion of the bridge, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina like her father also proved that Bangalees can uphold their dignity during any odd situation,” Munshi said.
He also criticised some people who tend to see bad aspects even in all the good things.
Former FBCCI president Sheikh Fazle Fahim moderated the dialogue, where former BGMEA presidents Siddiqur Rahman, Abdus Salam Murshedy and FBCCI president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and Kazi Akram Uddin, journalist leaders, among others, spoke at the event.