Potential of Dhaka-Yangon economic cooperation

It augurs well for bilateral economic relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar that direct air connectivity between Dhaka and Yangon is set to open up new business opportunities. Six weekly flights are now in operation on the route, shortening the travel time between the two destinations. Businesspeople and other passengers do no longer need to route their journey via Bangkok and can now travel directly between Dhaka and Yangon within two hours. It is further heartening to note that efforts are now on to establish direct shipping links between the two countries. Transportation connectivity is thus poised to set the ground well for facilitating movement of merchandise between Bangladesh and Myanmar — two proximate neighbours — besides that of people, particularly businessmen. This holds out some promising prospect for enhancing people-to-people contact, boosting mutual trust and confidence and expanding the horizon of cooperation in mutual interests.

Myanmar is at a stone’s throw from Bangladesh at Teknaf point but the distance between the two neighbouring countries have for long been, as if, miles apart, in the absence of direct connectivity. Time has now changed, particularly in the wake of recent developments in Myanmar where winds of democracy have started blowing. Myanmar has also been opening up to the outside world. This is an appropriate time for Bangladesh to beef up its bilateral relations with Myanmar. Viewed in this context, the pleadings, as reported in the media, by two Bangladeshis, living in Yangon for over two decades, for taking effective moves to harness the potential of bilateral cooperation in trade and commerce, merit serious consideration. Bangladesh, according to these two expatriates, is yet to explore the ‘tremendous’ potential in areas of bilateral trade, investment and other forms of economic cooperation with Myanmar. But other countries, including India and China, have advanced well ahead of Bangladesh.

It is, as of now, a sorry state of things that the annual trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar stands at a paltry amount of  $100 million. On its part, Myanmar had earlier reportedly encouraged Bangladesh’s businesses to invest in its agricultural industry in view of its enormous opportunities as a country having so much arable lands. Officials of the two countries had also discussed the potential for setting up wholesale border markets at the Teknaf-Maungdaw point. Besides, a joint committee was formed on coastal shipping. But there has so far been little follow-up action on these lines. On their part, the businesses in Bangladesh have otherwise shown their close interest to tap the potential of bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. The pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh, to cite an example, has succeeded to enter the Myanmar market remarkably well.

Meanwhile, formation of a tri-nation committee for implementation of proposed road and rail links among Bangladesh, Myanmar and China is viewed quite rightly, as a positive step to help forge close relationship among the three countries. If they work together in a coordinated way for the implementation of such links, these would go a long way towards operationalising the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor for wider mutual benefits. Hence, efforts do need to be stepped up for establishing such links.

 

Source: The Financial Express

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