China's multitrillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has opened a window of opportunity, and Bangladesh should reap it by properly assessing all the aspects, economists and experts told an international conference yesterday.
They say Bangladesh needs to do its ground work on BRI benefits and challenges, and also needs to engage in talks with China to have a broader understanding of the concept involved in order to protect national interests.
'The international conference on Belt and Road Initiative: Positioning Bangladesh within comparative Perspective' was organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at a city restaurant today.
Addressing the conference as distinguished guest, Economist and Chairman of CPD Professor Rehman Sobhan said the concept of BRI has a much wider global significance.
"BRI is a global initiative to construct a new international order based on enhancing development and ending poverty across the South within the framework of a more equitable world order. The scope of BRI thus extends to agendas for comprehensive, deeper economic cooperation across the world."
He said Bangladesh should initiate a series of talks and negotiations with China to promote and preserve its interests in BRI.
Md. Shahidul Haque, senior secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said, "We are not going to confine ourselves within BRI. We should be party to all initiatives as long as it serves our national interest."
CPD's Board of Trustee member Syed Manzur Elahi suggested that government policymakers should discuss business interests with stakeholders while being part of any initiatives like BRI.
"BRI is an opportunity for us, but the reality is most economies associated with BRI are competitive. It has to be BRI plus Europe, because, at the end of the day, we need to export our products to developed countries," he said.
In her keynote presentation, Executive Director of CPD, Dr Fahmida Khatun outlined the whole perspectives of BRI, its challenges and opportunities, and what it means to Bangladesh.
"There are mixed reactions over BRI because some countries have joined while some are still observing it," she mentioned.
She said Bangladesh is connected with BRI through the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor that covers 1.65 million sq kilometers and includes about 440 million people. "The effectiveness of BCIM is crucial to making BRI successful."
Referring to different studies, Dr Fahmida said improved infrastructure connectivity and increased international trade would mutually benefit all countries in the region.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, who spoke as chief guest, said BRI has a huge significance for Bangladesh. "The initiative will further enhance bilateral relations with China. We want a win-win benefit from BRI."
Mahbub Uz Zaman, Ambassador Designate to China, Dr Sachin Chaturvedi, professor and director general at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in New Delhi, and Lin Yanming, Associate Professor and Deputy Director at the Institute for Bangladesh Studies at Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, China also spoke at the conference.