Enabling a Political Economy Discourse for Multi-Modal Connectivity in the BBIN

Feb 2, 2022

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) implementation will open up the possibility of adopting a sub-regional protocol for cost-effective, efficient and seamless multimodal transport system, leading to a significant decrease in the cost of doing business and eventually increase the standard of living of the sub-region. It is deemed important that roadways, inland waterways, railway and coastal shipping transport systems are integrated in order to reach the potential. During an online National Advocacy Dialogue for multimodal connectivity in the BBIN sub-region, organized by Unnayan Shamannay today (February 2, 2022), speakers also stated that considering the political and economic importance, it is of paramount importance that all the stakeholders reach a consensus regarding the implementation of BBIN MVA as well as the realize the potential of establishing a multimodal BBIN connectivity protocol. 

Bangladesh Bank Former Governor and Unnayan Shamannay Chairperson Dr. Atiur Rahman was the chief guest in the event while Member of Parliament Md Shafiul Islam (Dhaka-10), Member of Parliament Shirin Akhter (Feni-1) and Member of Parliament Professor Dr Md Habibe Millat (Sirajganj-2) graced the event as esteemed guests. Ministry of Road, Transport and Bridges Additional Secretary Neelima Akhter and UNDP Country Economist Nazneen Akhter were also present in the event. In the last two decades, Constant Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of Bangladesh exports to India stands at 18 percent while CAGR of imports from India is around 12 percent. Bangladesh’s CAGR of exports to Nepal is around 13 percent and the figure is 11 percent for exports to Bhutan. According to a World Bank estimate, seamless connectivity between Bangladesh and India would increase the real income of Bangladesh by 17 percent while it will increase India’s real income by 8 percent.

Thus, it is possible to realize this huge trade potential by implementing BBIN MVA and commencing the discussion for a multimodal BBIN connectivity protocol. According to the study by Unnayan Shamannay, the most important trade route between Dhaka, Chattogram or Mongla (Bangladesh) and Thimphu (Bhutan) goes through Burimari and eventually goes over Jamuna Bridge before being connected to Dhaka. This route is part of BBIN MVA. This route can also be used as a multimodal route by starting from Thimpu-Jogigopa (Road) and Jogigopa-Chilmari-Dhaka (via inland waterways). In the same manner, another route can be made multimodal as the rest of India can be connected to Kolkata via rail or roadways and then head onwards to Chattogram via waterways and then in the final leg from Chattogram to Tripura via Roadways. Unnayan Shamannay Chairperson Dr. Atiur Rahman felt that BBIN MVA implementation and eventually a multimodal connectivity protocol has become more relevant for economic recovery from the covid-induced economic slowdown by employment generation. “BBIN MVA as well as a multimodal BBIN multimodal connectivity protocol can have a significant positive impact in the sector of the economy which is attributed to consumption-led growth. Thus, BBIN MVA implementation can help the nation reverse the covid-induced economic slowdown,” said Dr. Atiur Rahman. The implementation of BBIN MVA will lead to an enabling environment to start a discussion about a multimodal BBIN transport protocol. This will in turn decrease the costly transshipment activities in land ports and reduce the cost of doing business in these areas. But a BBIN multimodal protocol will require single-window customs clearance and the adoption of paperless trade initiatives in the BBIN region. Moreover, inland waterways vessel design should be improved to ensure that Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers can be navigated despite the seasonal low draft.