Transit is worth less than the medal
The medal accepted by Sonia Gandhi on behalf of Indira Gandhi is valued at about 90 lakh taka. I embellish a bit when I say that transit facilities that Bangladesh is giving India will be worth less that. That’s just to get your attention.
And now that I have it, let me point out that transit is not going to be worth much to anyone for a long time to come. Note, that’s the total surplus generated by the transit, not how the surplus is divided between India and Bangladesh.
According to this Prothom Alo report, investment of about 50,000 crore (500 billion) taka is needed before the full benefit of transit can be reaped.
Let’s put all of this in context.
Total investment in 2009-10 (last year of full data) is 1730 billion taka, which is composed of 1400 billion taka in private investment and 330 billion taka in public investment.
Let’s say this infrastructure development is going to be 50-50 private public split. That means, before transit can work, public investment will have to be 580 billion taka.
Over the past two decades, public investment has grown by 4% a year in real terms. At that rate, even if the government invested in nothing else, it wouldn’t be until 2025 that it will have invested enough on this infrastructure.
The point about these numbers are not ‘oh look it’s going to cost a lot of money’. The point is, we just don’t have the capacity to absorb this kind of investment in the timeframe we are talking about. Even if the Indians were paying hefty transit fees, we were all fully satisfied about the state of relationship between the two countries, and the Indians agreed to finance these projects at zero interest loan, to build this in infrastructure any time soon is simply beyond the capacity of Bangladeshi institutions.
And this is according to a panel that has people like Sadiq Ahmed, Rahmatullah and Mustafizur Rahman — not exactly your rabid anti-Indian rabble rousers like Mahmudur Rahman.
Anyone excited about transit should find something else to tickle their fancy. This ain’t worth your time and energy.
Update 28 July 12.10pm BDT: A longer write up on the issue is here.