Improvement in transport connectivity key to unlock intra-regional trade potential in BBIN subregion: CUTS

KNN India, March 6, 2023

Improved transport connectivity is imperative to realise intra-regional trade potential in the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) subregion, opined experts at a regional meeting organised by CUTS International in New Delhi last week.

CUTS also launched its exclusive report on “Multimodal Connectivity for Shared Prosperity – Towards Facilitating Trade in the BBIN Subregion.”

“Transport connectivity should be the main building block for intra-regional trade and cooperation in the BBIN subregion and this must cover different modes of transportation. Under our work on multimodal connectivity in BBIN subregion, we have not looked at road connectivity in silos, but gone much beyond that,” said Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International.

The report has identified that several multimodal connectivity options are already present in this subregion and they need to be nurtured to realise their potential to double intra-regional trade in this subregion from the current level of USD 20 billion.

He was speaking at a Regional Meeting titled ‘Multimodal Connectivity in the BBIN Subregion’.
It was organised under a project ‘Enabling a Political Economy Discourse for Multimodal Connectivity in the BBIN Subregion’ and was attended by more than 70 participants representing a diverse group of stakeholders.

The project is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom under its Asia Regional Trade and Connectivity Programme.

In his introductory remarks, Didar Singh, Former Secretary of Overseas Affairs, Government of India and Distinguished Fellow, CUTS International, mentioned that political economy is the most important aspect that enables policy making process and its proper understanding is the way forward for multimodal connectivity in the BBIN subregion.

“Improved political economy understanding is required to give the necessary push in this direction,” he argued.

According to Kuancheng Huang, Professor, Department of Transportation and Logistics Management, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, for successful implementation of infrastructure projects, identification and pilot testing of their impacts are necessary, and they have been duly taken care of and incorporated in this project.

“Outputs under the project are very important and useful for infrastructure-led economic recovery g in the post-Covid 19 era”, he added.

“Various outputs prepared under the project such as country-specific policy recommendations are vital to achieve inclusive growth in the BBIN subregion,” stated Sutapa Choudhury, Deputy Head, Indo-Pacific Regional Department, India and Indian Ocean Directorate, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, United Kingdom.

“The FCDO is committed to extend support to development projects in the subregion in future,” she added.

According to Neelima Akhter, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, Government of Bangladesh,

“At present more than 80 per cent transport burden falls on the road transport and there is a need to shift this to other modes of transportation in Bangladesh. This can help reducing trade and transportation costs.”
Highlighting Bhutan’s focus on enabling alternative transportation modes with climate resilience features, Pushpa Chhetri, Director, Bodhi Media & Communications Institute, remarked that “Transformation is the new Mantra in Bhutan, and the country has taken a number of initiatives towards this. There should be more emphasis on Climate-resilient infrastructure for better connectivity.”

In agreement with other experts, Rabi Shanker Sainju, Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Supplies, Government of Nepal, opined that since seamless movement of passenger, personal and cargo vehicles is becoming a necessity for this subregion to grow, multimodal connectivity could be very useful.

Sanjeev Gupta, Member (Planning & Development), Land Ports Authority of India, in his presentation, mentioned that the government is presently exploring ways and means to connect operational and planned Integrated Check Posts to different modes of transportation, particularly railways and waterways.

According to Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh while the project findings would contribute to increased awareness about the need for deeper and multimodal connectivity in the BBIN subregion, they have stimulated a better-informed political economy discourse in this regard.

Several political economy issues and challenges were highlighted in the presentation made by Indranil Bose, Consultant, CUTS International.

“There is urgent need for paying required attention to issues like gender dimensions and socio-economic impacts of success of infrastructure projects in the subregion,” he observed.

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