Should India pay the transit fees? It is a big question now at a time when a hide and seek is further adding confusion as to whether or not the Awami League government has already given the facility to the neighbour to go to its north-eastern states from the mainland in the west.
Another question is, whether it is a transit facility which is used to go to a third country as against a corridor which India is trying to obtain by all intent, to carry its goods and passengers from one end to the other.
Irrespective of this debate a growing confusion is widespread as to whether India should pay transit fees. President of India-Bangladesh chamber of commerce and Industry (IBCCI) Matlub Ahmed at a seminar in the city last week said India should pay the transit fees.
Contrarily, the Prime Minister’s two advisers, Dr. Moshiur Rahman and
So Matlub Ahmed said India should agree to share the ‘cost saving’ from which it will benefit by making the transportation path shortcut. It is quite logical, he said adding it represents a win-win situation on both sides.
This is an outlandish argument on the part of an adviser to the Prime Minister provoking critics to question as to whose interest the adviser is looking after holding a crucial post of the Bangladesh government. The apprehension may be exaggerated, but the question remains how he can justify it.
And he is not alone. Another adviser, Dr Moshiur Rahman who is also working closely on the issue, even had earlier written to the NBR and the ministry of shipping and commerce asking them not to impose any transit fees. He was instrumental in scrapping an NBR circular last year which had levied transit fees of Taka 10,000 for a container loaded with transit bound cargo and Taka 1000 for per tonne loose merchandise.
Now India is willing to pay transit fees but its opposition is coming from no other positions but from top advisers of the government handling the transit issue. Dr Moshiur Rahman even went to the extent of saying that demanding transit fees will be tantamount to an ‘uncivilised’ act from an ‘uneducated’ nation.
Speaking on the issue Dr Akbar Ali Khan recently said, if India does not pay for the cost of infrastructure investment then where the money will come from to repay the loan that Delhi has given to Bangladesh to build necessary infrastructures.
He said the construction of the Ahugonj river port alone will require Taka 300 crore to be paid back over the next 20 years. It means Bangladesh will be required to pay Taka 15 crore per year on principal amount against the loan for the port. Who will pay it, he wondered and then how the money for the payment of the billion dollar loan could be mobilized. Should Bangladeshi tax payers take the load from which India will benefit, he wondered adding the repayment issue may create a critical situation in future.
The Indian billion dollar loan is not the only major investment; Bangladesh may be required to put a total of at least seven billion dollars investment in the next few years to build the transit infrastructures including the Padma mega bridge.
If India is not paying and sharing its cost saving, how will Bangladesh pay for it for which the advisers are not having a direct answer?
Chairman of the Bangladesh Tariff Commission Dr Mujibur Rahman recently focused on the issue saying the cost recovery of the infrastructure development should not be directly linked to transit fees.
This is how the transit fees may be serviced from additional income to come from expansion of domestic economic activities, he argued. But the question is, where the impediments lie to demand the fees, there is no answer from the establishment on this question at this moment.
A question to finance minister on the billion dollar Indian loan at a seminar in June this year as to why all supply should come from India against the loan was instantly turned down as ‘nonsense’. The nation is more confused now as contradictions are only growing related to transit infrastructure financing and such other cost recovery issues when India is already using Bangladesh facilities without formal transit accords.
BY : Faruque Ahmed.