Investment in road infrastructure development is required along with a political will to enhance regional transport connectivity in Eastern South Asia.
Stakeholders from public and private sectors said this at a validation workshop on Thursday with former Bangladesh Bank governor Dr Atiur Rahman in the chair.
Unnayan Shamannay (UnSy) hosted the workshop, in collaboration with CUTS International and supported by World Bank (WB), on the UnSy premises in Dhaka city.
Dr Rahman, also the UnSy chairman, says seamless intra-regional connectivity is a challenge now unless South Asian countries utilise their respective macroeconomic strength.
The pace of implementation of infrastructure development projects for the regional transport connectivity is slow, he adds.
Citing a WB study, Dr Rahman says intra-regional trade is less than 5.0 per cent of the total trade in South-East Asia.
Such trade is more than 30 per cent in East Asia and Europe, he adds.
A study paper on the findings of Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA) was presented at the programme moderated by UnSy project coordinator Shaheen ul Alam.
UnSy lead economist Robart Shuvor Guda and CUTS International Kolkata senior research associate Bijaya Roy presented the paper.
The study was done on cargo movement through Kolkata-Petrapole-Dhaka-Agartala corridor covering 650km, Dhaka-Petrapole-Delhi corridor 1,850km and bus movement on Dhaka-Shiliguri-Kathmandu route 1,100km.
Ms Roy says it is imperative to sign a memorandum of understanding between the revenue authorities of BBIN countries.
Neelima Akhter, additional secretary, urban transport wing under road transport and highways division, suggests a study be done to assess load capacity of road to ensure smooth regional transport connectivity.
Stakeholders also suggest that customs modalities be different for imported goods of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) than that of large shipments.
BWCCI director Priti Chakraborty stresses the need for using technology to enhance regional transport mobility.
Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association general secretary Hossain Ahmed Mojumder says Bangladeshi vehicles are paying toll for bridges in cash while it is automated in India.
Insurance coverage for goods trucks drivers is required for regional transport connectivity, he cites.
Mr Mojumder, however, alleges that the neighbouring nation is more prone to avail benefit than offer it.
Monoj Kumar Roy, former additional secretary of commerce ministry, says Nepal's response to the BBIN is not visible yet. "What India is thinking is the ultimate fate of this agreement."
Syed Monowar Hussain, former director at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), however, prefers an integrated multimodal transport agreement on a broader scale for sustainable development.
Md Munir Chowdhury, national trade expert, Bangladesh Regional Connectivity project-01, Cell, MoC, Md Anisur Rahman, assistant director (traffic), Bangladesh Land Port Authority, Md Mamun Kabir Terafder, deputy director (traffic), Bangladesh Land Port Authority, Md Abul Kalam Azad, port in-charge, Banglabandha Land Port Ltd, Md Abul Kalam Azad, assistant manager-civil engineering, Sirajganj Economic Zone Ltd, Sudhir Chandra Nath, business director, ACI Seeds, Saba Nowreen Poly, proprietor and director, Mekhola Handicraft (exporter), and Md Rejaul Karim, vice-president, Panchagarh C&F Agents Association, among others, attended the programme.