India-Bangladesh Working on Dismantling Non-tariff Barriers and Para-tariff Barriers
Recently, Bangladesh has become eligible for graduation from 'Least Developed Country' category. Interestingly, it is one of the first LDCs to graduate on the basis of all the three criteria: GNI per capita, Human Assets Index and Economic Vulnerability Index. Fuelled by impressive socio-economic indicators such as infant mortality, life expectancy, health and education, lower vulnerability and an economic boom, Bangladesh is expected to leave the LDC category by 2024 and would be entering into the category of a 'developing' country.
Bangladesh's graduation from the LDC category is an important part of the effort to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. While there would be some significant implications on the domestic front, what would Bangladesh's graduation process imply for India? How will the bilateral economic relations between India and Bangladesh be impacted with the new status of the latter country setting in?
In this context, a joint policy dialogue was organized to explore new dimensions of partnership between India and Bangladesh. The economic growth, the welfare of farmers, employment opportunities for youth, access to capital, technology, markets and resources are inextricably linked. Hence, a thriving well-connected and integrated neighbourhood is an indispensable requirement, as is greater understanding of each other's critical role in all-round development.
While addressing the seminar 'Bangladesh's Graduation from LDC: New Frontiers and Horizons for India-Bangladesh Economic Engagement' jointly organized by FICCI and the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi on 20 June 2018, Syed Muazzem Ali, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, said that India and Bangladesh are working on dismantling the nontariff and para-tariff barriers.
Bangladesh has recently graduated from 'Least Development Category' of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy. 'We seek substantial investment from Indian investors in three special economic zones of Mongla, Bheramara and Mirsarai in Bangladesh to broaden our exportable base,' he added, 'we could engage in a series of “buy-back” projects similar to those between USA and Canada.'
The eligibility of a country for graduation is measured by UN on attainment of threshold value of three criterias and Bangladesh achieved all three targets convincingly. While, the GNI per capita threshold was $1,230 or above, Bangladesh's GNI per capita was $1,610 at the end of Financial Year 2016-17. The HAI target was 66 or above, and Bangladesh's score is 72.8. The EVI target was 32 or below and Bangladesh scored 24.8. So, on all three accounts, Bangladesh successfully crossed the benchmarks.
The High Commissioner said Bangladesh, however, will have to maintain the thresholds for at least two indices till the country's final graduation from the LDC category in 2024. In the meantime, the CDP will review the country's status again in 2021 and finally in 2024, for completing the process of graduation. The challenge now is to maintain the current rate of progress.
The High Commissioner said that connectivity offers a game-changing opportunity for India and Bangladesh which would bring about unprecedented benefit for us as well as for the region. The two countries are working to restore road, rail, and coastal shipping links that had existed in the pre-partition period. At the same time, new land ports and better infrastructure are built to facilitate greater trade.
Ali said, 'In addition to various bilateral initiatives, we need to hasten the sub-regional cooperation on energy sector. A trilateral investment of 1125 MW hydro-power project in Bhutan, by Bangladesh, India and Bhutan is also under discussion. I think, we need to further strengthen our existing subregional and regional platforms like BBIN, SAARC, BIMSTEC etc. Signing of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) is expected to create a regional market for power trade. We can expedite similar cooperation framework under the aegis of BIMSTEC. In our capacity as a founding member of both SAARC and BIMSTEC, we are ready to cooperate in all the essential energy related projects of these organizations.'
Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs), Prime Minister's Office, Bangladesh, said that way forward for Bangladesh would be to increase investment in human development, overcome infrastructure gap, invest in quality education and research, adopt innovation and digitalization, enhance north-south, south-south, triangular cooperation and diversify export.
Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Senior Vice President, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said, 'To make successful transition Bangladesh needs to explore strategic joint venture investments in high-value sectors, focus on innovation and research, blue economy and multimodal connectivity.’
Ram Upendra Das, Head & Professor, Centre for Regional Trade, Department of Commerce, Government of India, said, South Asian economic integration has not moved at the pace it could have. It is high time we adopt an integrated approach to trade in goods, services, and investments so as not to miss out on the synergies between the three.’ Pritam Banerjee, Senior Director, South Asia Corporate Public Policy, DHL Group said that challenges in the eastern part of India are not much different from those in Bangladesh. It is in the interest of both the nations to work on improving connectivity.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), Bangladesh, said,
‘India and Bangladesh should increase cooperation in research, comprehensively work on inclusive development and climate change while working on ensuring peace in the region.’
Manish Singhal, Deputy Secretary General, FICCI, said this first-of-its kind policy dialogue on IndiaBangladesh is significant considering that Bangladesh has recently become eligible for graduation from LDC. It is a proud moment for our neighbour that just before its 47th anniversary of Independence, UN declared its graduation from LDC status to a developing country.
He said that a thriving wellconnected and an integrated neighbourhood is indispensable for economic growth. 'The classification of Bangladesh as a developing country would certainly leapfrog the existing bilateral engagement between India and Bangladesh,' he added.
In his Vote of Thanks, the Deputy High Commissioner from the Bangladesh High Commission, Rokebul Haque, congratulated FICCI for successful conduct of the initiative and emphasized on enhancing Bangladesh High Commission’s greater engagement with the apex industry chamber to reinforce bilateral economic engagement between India and Bangladesh. n
Syed Muazzem Ali, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, addressing the seminar.
L to R: Dr. Pritam Banerjee, Senior Director – South Asia Corporate Public Policy, DHL Group, India; Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Co-ordinator (SDG Affairs), Prime Minister's Office, Government of Bangladesh; Manish Singhal, DSG, FICCI; Syed Muazzem Ali, High Commissioner of Bangladesh; Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, Palli KarmaSahayak Foundation (PKSF), Bangladesh; Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Senior Vice President, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Rokebul Haque, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh.