Businesses also want share of transit gains

Indo-Bangla business body president warns that without a share of benefits for Bangladeshi businesses, transit will not be sustainable. Full report
Published : 10 Sept 2011, 05:11 AM
Updated : 10 Sept 2011, 05:11 AM
Dhaka, Sep 10 ( -- Indo-Bangla Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Abdul Matlub Ahmed has said that Bangladeshi businesses should also have a share of the dividends that Indian businesses would get from a transit facility.
Also head of Nitol-Niloy Group, Matlub pointed out that businesspeople of both countries should stand to gain from the transit facility.
Speaking on Bangladesh's move to provide India with transit at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel on Saturday, Matlub said, "Otherwise it will not be sustainable."
Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh's Sep 6-7 visit to Bangladesh was expected to result in a few major agreements including Teesta and Feni water sharing as well as a transit deal. However, none of the deal came through.
"Dhaka should get 50 per cent of the benefit businesses of other countries get due to transit facility through Bangladesh," Matlub said.
"I discussed the issue with Indian businessmen and they are ready to share the benefits," he said. "Assume that now it costs Tk 50,000 to transport goods from Kolkata to Assam and if the cost is reduced to Tk 20,000 due to transit, they should give us 50 per cent of the [cost saved]."
Transit becomes an important but thorny issue in Bangla-Indo relationship as Dhaka apparently refused to exchange a letter of intent.
It would not be sustainable if India, Nepal or Bhutan get transit facility without any benefit sharing, he said.
"There would be stiff resistance from every quarter and functionally the transit operation will not be in place."
"We are working on the issue for the last couple of years and suddenly we are hearing that we cannot make money by extending the transit facility," said the businessman, who has extensive exposure to India.
Two influential advisers to the prime minister propagated the idea that Bangladesh would follow the WTO rules in providing transit facility meaning Dhaka can only recover cost but not make any profit for providing the service.
He hoped that transit and water sharing agreement would be signed by the end of this year.
Matlub said seven big Indian businessmen would visit Dhaka in the first week of October to assess investment prospects in Bangladesh.
"We intentionally made it a small delegation as we are looking for billion dollar investment, not small and scattered investment," he said.
Mittal of Airtel, Harsh Goenka of RPG Group, vice chairman of Tata Steel B Muthuraman and chairman of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited B Prasad Rao have confirmed their participation, he said adding, "They would come on a two-day visit."
Dhaka has signed investment protection agreement with Delhi and now many Indian businessmen are showing their interest to invest in the country, he said.
About the resentment of Indian textiles over duty-free access of 46 Bangladeshi RMG products to India, he said, "One should not be nervous about it."
The market access would ultimately be also beneficial to Indians as they would get quality products at cheap price, he explained.
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to Dhaka announced duty-free access of 46 textile products out of 61 products demanded by Bangladesh.
There are now about 440 Bangladesh products on the Indian negative list.
The IBCCI president said he wanted to set up a special economic zone for Indians on 100 acres of land in Chattak that he owns
"We hope that we can start (the work) in January next year as it is aligned with the government initiative to improve bilateral trade and investment relations with India," he said.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher