On June 25, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the bridge across the Padma River. The longest bridge in Bangladesh, the 6.15 km multi-purpose Padma Bridge marks an important milestone in the history of independent Bangladesh as it is a symbol not only of Bangladesh’s determination but also of its growing economic potential and development.
Speaking at the opening of the Padma Bridge, Hasina said, “This bridge is not only made of bricks, cement, iron and concrete. This bridge is our pride. a symbol of our ability, our strength and our dignity. This bridge belongs to the people of Bangladesh.”
The Hasina government’s original plan was to build the Padma Bridge with external funding from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, the World Bank suddenly refused to finance the project. in 2012referring to the corruption of state officials. This causes other sponsors to withdraw from project too much. This seriously affected the image of the country and the ruling Awami League party. It was also a failure for the people of Bangladesh. This prompted Hasina to choose to self-finance the project, despite warnings from economists and opposition politicians. So the completion of the Padma Bridge has become a symbol of national pride and dignity.
Built at a cost of nearly $3.87 billion, the Padma Bridge is one of the largest projects ever undertaken in Bangladesh. It connects 21 districts in southwestern Bangladesh with the capital Dhaka by road and rail, and significantly reduces travel time.
While the global economic situation is grim and countries in the region are experiencing negative growth, Bangladesh’s economy is growing. The Global Economic Forum reports that Bangladesh’s per capita income, which stood at $2,260 in 2020, will rise to $2860 in 2025. In addition to this project, Bangladesh also supported the Maldives and Sri Lanka with $400 million in loans. Bangladesh’s funding of the mega Padma project will now bolster its reputation as a rising economic power in South Asia.
Awami League leaders believe that Hasina’s strong leadership over the past 13 years has contributed to Bangladesh’s transformation into a middle-income country and its other economic successes.
The biggest contribution of the Padma Bridge will be to the economic growth of Bangladesh. Economists say it will provide Increase from 1.3 to 2 percent per year to the country’s GDP. When the railway component of the bridge is completed, the project will contribute another 1 percent to GDP. The bridge project’s contribution to Bangladesh’s GDP is expected to rise to 5 percent by 2055.
According to Zahid Hossain, Lead Economist at the World Bank, the Padma Bridge will reduce travel distance by 100 km by about 27 percent population of Bangladesh for the development of business and agriculture, thereby affecting the country’s GDP.
Other experts confirm the bridge will help reduce poverty, stimulate trade, tourism and industry, and create employment opportunities in the southwest of the country.
The Padma Bridge is also of regional importance.
This will improve the connection. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal signed the Motor Vehicles Agreement to regulate the movement of passenger, personal and cargo vehicles in 2015. The Padma Bridge will provide the BBIN network with the necessary connectivity.
For cargo from the northeast bound for Kolkata, India has long been eyeing a shorter transit route through Bangladesh. During his visit to Bangladesh in April 2022, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said, “India is looking forward to a stronger subregional cooperation in the field of communications. In a statement issued on the occasion of the opening of the Padma Bridge, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said that the bridge would “not only help improve connectivity within Bangladesh, but also provide a much-needed boost to logistics and business connecting India and our country.” common sub-region… The bridge will play an important role in facilitating bilateral and sub-regional communication. ”
The Padma Bridge is also expected to influence domestic politics. Given the widespread irregularities in the 2014 and 2018 general elections, the incumbent People’s League government lacked legitimacy in the eyes of a number of countries, including the United States. While the Hasina government is under enormous pressure to ensure free and fair elections when they are held in 2023, a development project of the magnitude and importance of the Padma project will endow the government with legitimacy from below.
With questions raised about the legitimacy of elections and the quality of democracy in Bangladesh, Awami League leaders promoted the idea of ”Less democracy, more development“In Parliament. They will be able to consider the Padma project as a prime example of such a development.
Despite the fact that northeast Bangladesh was experiencing the worst flooding in decades, Hasina’s government celebrated the opening of the Padma Bridge. across the country and spent a lot of money on it. It is clear that the government wants to benefit the electorate from the completion of the bridge. Only time will tell if the Padma Bridge will serve the political and electoral agenda of the Awami League or not.