OBOR- A journey to new economic era of Bangladesh

AKM Asaduzzaman Patwary,

Research Fellow, DCCI


It is always important for a nation like us to get connected to growing connectivity to reap best possible outcomes for an economy. The philosophy of interconnected and integrated globalization can be expanded and way forwarded provided the regional and sub-regional connectivity remains there. Bangladesh, being a geo politically and geo economically important nation, is progressing trying to remain connected to global connectivity. Indeed, the global wave of connectivity and cultural connectivity is so fledging and volatile and to some extent very unpredictable due to their blended and diverse economic interest and operations that Bangladesh finds unmanageable and get challenged and exposed to criticality. Our conventional friendly and harmless policy of friendship to all nations are little backdated at current time as almost each country often change and adopt new strategic position in dealing geo economic and political challenges.

On the forty years of relationship of Bangladesh and China, Bangladesh has formally announced to join China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR), which local and regional experts say will immensely benefit connectivity, trade and people-to-people contacts in the region. In a rare gesture all major political parties have welcomed the OBOR plan of China, during the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping in Dhaka in 2016. And, this spirited relation may enhance the present bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh to US$30 billion by 2021.

China’s economic growth has made OBOR move a strong economic force in driving global trade. As its trading partner, Bangladesh expects from China, principally, increasing amounts of Chinese direct investment, better access for Bangladeshi products in China’s market and continuing support in developing the infrastructure of the country.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has taken active participation in the OBOR and, as a part of the initiative, the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) corridor is now in its final stage. Fortunately, India is also in the BCIM initiative which is in line with the Chinese OBOR initiative. India has responsibility to engage its efforts in developing regional integration, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Myanmar along with China.

China restored and revived historic connectivity of silk trade through maritime route through extended connectivity of OBOR initiative with consent of more nations. As of today, 29 member countries have joined this initiative though 66 countries are expected to be tagged to this huge and largest ever regional connectivity and recently 6 central Asian and European member countries have ratified to this deal.

Bangladesh has formally joined the China-led One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative by publicly voicing support for OBOR a day after the Trump administration joined India in its opposition to OBOR. There are mixed reaction on the potential journey of the OBOR. As almost all member countries in the OBOR route having dispute and disagreement on trade ground, territorial issues and economic dominance. Due to multiple and cross-cutting challenges and issues, the OBOR despite having strong ground and need are progressing like a slow coach. It has been evident that many countries within the bloc does not like to see the extreme economic supremacy and leadership and uninterrupted growth of China led new economic horizon.

It was declared that $900 billion fund is raised to support the longstanding project implementation for offering economic rehabilitation, infrastructure connectivity and other technological support to member countries.

Bangladesh has consented to the OBOR in 2013 and the engagement of Bangladesh has got momentum during the visit of Xi, the President of China during 2017. Bangladesh should pay more attention to its Look east policy to activate the connectivity further and thus increase bilateral trade. Bangladesh and China believe in regional and sub-regional cooperation and have common interest in the corridor, this offers additional impetus, the expert said. The strategic presence of China in Bangladesh is historic as the development, trade and investment partner and the trend of cooperation deepens and expands across the time.

screenshot-48The swinging geo-political order is an apparent challenge to member countries of OBOR for implementation of the Silk route. On the other hand, the issue of territorial crisis to the border of China and other neighboring country and Bangladesh and Myanmar will literally weaken the integration of OBOR and its ultimate objectives. The territorial issues always handicap and unease the economic and trade and economic diplomacy. Therefore the territorial crises are to be kept lower for the greater socioeconomic interest.

We always need bear in mind that economy always looks into own interest with priority and think of neighbors and next neighbors. In the challenging and changing Geo-economic atmosphere, each country must reap strategic benefit from neighbors to retain the best interest of the country. With this idealism the OBOR is the great window and new era for us to exploit much member countries.

We always need to accept the harsh reality of the world is the peaceful relation between border is not always guaranteed and secure. Therefore, it is to be borne in mind and accordingly bilateral and multilateral relation should continue. And, no country is friend nor foe to other countries in-long-run. This critical learning of history is economic interest is always is priority irrespective of global circumstances and regional and sub-regional political crisis.

Bangladesh economically emerging and dynamic needs to learn from this understanding and carefully and strategically utilize them in reshaping and recasting our economic planning. We must be friendly and harmless to all our neighbors though we have always proven as a peaceful and peace loving nation and continue to be so. Therefore, we are required to retain the economic capacity and strengthen our inclusive economic strength. And, The OBOR is very contemporary and time-befitting opportunity for Bangladesh in terms of local economic and external relation and easy external trade route reach out.

screenshot-49OBOR is undoubtedly a timely and great initiative considering the current economic circumstances of World. And, this manifesto of transforming the world has brought some challenges to all of us and a great commitment to world. In this regard, this needs to grow substantially with the spirit of ‘act locally and think globally’ to ensure spillover effects across the world. The economy is first at any cost even the ideology. With this idealism,

We always need to bear in mind that economy always looks into own interest with least priority of next neighbors. In the challenging and changing geo-economic atmosphere, each country must reap strategic benefit from neighbors to retain the best interest of the country. Alongside, OBOR is the great window and new era for us to exploit much all member countries. The strategy of connectivity of East and West led by China is very important now at the current context of World.

The Growing and sporadic regional economic cooperation and  strategic bloc building like TTIP, TPP and CFTA, RCEP of like minded economies may hurt this heavy weight, robust and inclusive economic integration plan as other blocs are growing faster and members find exclusive and new interests in them.

The ongoing multilateral trade and investment relation of Bangladesh and other countries is remarkably incremental but it may help reach out to new and sub-regional market as well as following avenues and issues can be emerged for the greater interests of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh can emerge as regional industrial hub as local and regional industrial supply hub. Our energy crisis is deepening due to diminishing source of primary energy gas and supply and this economic integration can help finding alternative and easily available sourcing from neighboring countries with intensive coal and gas reserve to meet scarcity as many neighboring countries have huge mineral resources. And, Energy supply pipeline connectivity can be established regionally.

The integrated economic bloc with free mobility and access of human, goods and services within region can be generated. Cost of doing business in home and cross border trade will drastically be reduced. Innovation backed Technology and skill development surge will be inspired facilitating large number of skilled employment and this huge labour force can meet the local and global labour force need.

Economic balance and potential will grow in terms of trade and Investment expansion. Regional market will be open for Bangladesh to widen the trade and investment horizon. The local industry will be boomed with technological innovation and manufacturing diversity tailoring Chinese market.

Silk route is expected to reduce the cost doing business in cross border trade regionally and globally as it is an alternative route of business. The opportunities and facilities in the given world largest economic connectivity is relentlessly incremental. And, it is more beneficial to remain with a powerful and sustainable focused economic integration to rear benefits for our transformation economy keeping the short term political crisis aside and minimum for greater and long term interest with deep sense of farsightedness and fraternity.