The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Sunday suggested setting up of an economic corridor in the country's north-eastern region, comprising nine districts, to tap its potential.
The Northeast Bangladesh Economic Corridor will comprise Narayanganj, Gazipur, Narsingdi, Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Netrakona, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj and Sylhet, according to an ADB study.
The ADB said that the region is resource-rich and has great potential because of its strategic location. It is close to India, Bhutan and Nepal, the multilateral leader said.
With an intention of promoting economic development, the ADB is undertaking Bangladesh Economic Corridor studies.
An ADB team led by Soon Chan Hong made a presentation on Bangladesh Economic Corridor.
Earlier, it conducted a study on southwest economic corridor comprising Dhaka, Khulna and Jashore.
The ADB in collaboration with the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) organised an inception workshop on the issue at a city hotel.
Planning Minister MA Mannan and Prime Minister's adviser on private industry and investment Salman F Rahman attended the function as the special guests.
Manmohan Parkash, country director at the Bangladesh Resident Mission of the ADB, delivered the address of welcome. Sirazul Islam, the newly appointed executive chairman of the BIDA, also spoke at the function.
While addressing the function, the planning minister said the country's main problem is poverty and the government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina is working on how to eliminate it.
The government is working in collaboration with the private sector, he said, adding that there was trade with other parts of Bangladesh since the ancient period.
"My forefathers used to trade with other parts of the region without any visa and restrictions…."
Now passport and visa are needed to enter the market of other side. It is high time to lift the restrictions to get economic benefits, he said.
Speaking at the function, Mr Salman F Rahman said this is very much important for the overall development of the economy.
But he said the proposed corridor should maintain link with the country's proposed economic zones.
He, however, turned down a proposal made by the ADB to form a new agency to handle the economic corridor, saying that the BIDA and the BEZA can well handle it.
Mr Rahman said tourism is also important in the region as it is an important part of the economy.
Abul Kalam Azad, principal coordinator (SDG affairs), also spoke at the function.
While presenting the paper on Bangladesh Economic Corridor, the team said the development work on the northeast region has started.
They said the region is resource-rich and located strategically with respect to cross-border trade with northeast of India, Bhutan and Nepal.
They said the region has poor transportation infrastructure and limited trade gateways.
"Despite having a strategic location, the resource-rich northeast region's contribution to GDP is below national average," according to the initial findings of the ADB study.
They said an integrated approach for corridor planning, development and management will be required.
They also suggested setting up of Bangladesh Economic Corridor Development Authority.
Earlier, the first part was for southwest region (SWBEC) which had estimated an additional output of US$ 148 billion by 2050 from targeted industries in the region.