Bangladesh will receive benefits worth more than $10 billion, which is three and a half times more than the construction cost, from the Padma Bridge during its economic life, according to transportation experts, economists and businessmen as they emphasised gaining even more by completing other projects in line with the mega-structure quickly.
At a seminar on Tuesday organised by an Awami League sub-committee, the businessmen also expressed hope that the bridge, which is awaiting inauguration after overcoming various challenges, would become a hub for transportation, trade, investment and employment.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said the Padma Bridge would be an important catalyst in the implementation of the government's Vision 2041 as the bridge will connect the country's last geographical divide.
Some 13 districts of a total 21 which will be connected to the other regions of the country by the bridge have a higher average poverty. Prof Mustafizur noted that the bridge will help alleviate the poverty in the districts and facilitate economic inclusiveness.
According to the CPD distinguished fellow, the size of gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by 1.23% with the opening of the Padma Bridge.
"The south-western districts will add another 2% to the GDP. As 2.5% of the $450 billion GDP, more than $10 billion gains will come from the bridge during its economic life. As such, the benefits will be at least three and a half times more than the construction cost."
Prof Mustafizur stressed on investment connectivity to tap the full potentials of the bridge. "If we can ensure an investment environment in 17 proposed special economic zones in 21 districts, there will be 7.5 lakh new jobs."
Transportation expert Shamsul Hoque said since slow vehicles will not be allowed to enter the approach road of the bridge, the number of accidents will be reduced.
Shamsul Hoque, a civil engineering professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said the corridor would create a stimulus for economic development, and called for protecting the progress.
Terming the bridge and roads the backbone of development, he said it will not be sustainable if unplanned structures are allowed on both sides of the road.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said Padma once was a destroyer of human edifices, but now it will become a creator of fame. The bridge will help the nation weave its new success stories.
He praised the prime minister for her bold leadership in implementing the mega-bridge project.
Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman said, "The bold move to build the Padma Bridge has proved our capability. We are now demanding another Padma Bridge before the first one is over. Everyone is praising us now.
"In Pakistan's social media, Sheikh Hasina is being praised as the most popular leader in the region," he added.
Agrani Bank Chairman Zaid Bakht said that the government has been able to tackle the challenges successfully even though financing on the Padma Bridge turned quite difficult after the World Bank moved away. He also highlighted the role of Agrani Bank in providing foreign exchanges in the project.
Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI), said the Padma Bridge was a bold move by the prime minister. Success in the construction of the bridge even under pressure now appears to be a sign of great strength.
Member of the Parliament Abdus Salam Murshedy said the bridge would change the country's communication system as it would also reduce the pressure on Chattogram port.
Md Alamgir Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association, said local entrepreneurs have provided 2.28 lakh tonnes of cement for the construction of the main structure of the bridge. A total of 5.62 lakh tonnes of locally manufactured cement has been used in the bridge project.
Manwar Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Steel Manufacturers Association, said the project has so far used 2.15 lakh tonnes of domestic steel, of which 92,000 tonnes has been used in the main structure.
Among others, former FBCCI president and Member of Parliament Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and Awami League Secretary for Industry and Commerce and former BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman spoke on the occasion.