Bangladesh’s Chittagong Port – Economic & Diplomatic transformation

Chittagong Port make Bangladesh rich
  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, had high regard for state-led and state-owned growth process. In order to translate this dream into reality he launched country’s first five year plan in 1973.
  • The plan could not live up to the expectations of country’s leadership as well as the people. The economic condition of the country became worse by the fall of 1974 when a famine swept throughout the country. This prompted some analysts to term the country as “Bottomless Basket” & “Developmental guinea pig”.

Charting the right way:

  • To cope with the growing socio-economic challenges and calm down the situation at home Bangladeshi leaders decided to introduce economic reforms and liberalise the economy. These reforms were broadly aimed at strengthening the market forces and private sector at home and open up the economy and integrate it with the rest of the world.

Agricultural Growth-

  • The drivers of change included inter alia greater emphasis on agricultural research, rapid technological innovation, and increased market opportunity to the farmers.
  • National Agricultural Research Systems entered into partnership with some international agricultural research organisations and came up with modern varieties of crops. Due to these modern varieties of seeds, agricultural production increased substantially.
  • As per the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, Bangladesh recorded threefold increase in the production of rice. In 2011, the country produced over 32 million metric tonnes (mt) of rice, whereas at the time of independence it was only 10 million mt.

Garment Sector-

  • The success story of Bangladesh economy is often attributed to the ready-made garment (RMG) sector. This sector singlehandedly accounted for over 80 percent of country’s total export growth between 2000 and 2015.

Chittagong Port- brief history

  • Chittagong officially known as Chattogram and also known as the Port City of Bangladesh, is a major coastal city and financial centre in southeastern Bangladesh. Modern Chittagong is Bangladesh’s second most significant urban centre after Dhaka.
  • Chittagong is an ancient seaport due to its natural harbor. It was noted of one of the largest Eastern ports by the Roman geographer Ptolemy in the 1st century century. The harbor has been a gateway through southeastern Bengal in the Indian subcontinent for centuries.
  • Arab sailors and traders, who once explored the Bay of Bengal, set up a mercantile station in the harbor during the 9th century. During the 16th century, Portuguese historian Jodo de Barros described Chittagong as “the most famous and wealthy city of the Kingdom of Bengal”.

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Chittagong’s Economic contributions:

  • The port is one of the oldest in the world. The Port of Chittagong is the busiest seaport on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal, and the second busiest in the overall region of countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
  • The port of Chittagong handles 90% of Bangladesh’s export-import trade, and has been used by India, Nepal and Bhutan for trans-shipment. The Port of Chittagong handled US$60 billion in annual trade in 2011, ranking 3rd in South Asia after the Port of Mumbai and the Port of Colombo.
  • The Chittagong Stock Exchange is one of the country’s two stock markets. Several Chittagong-based companies are among the largest industrial conglomerates and enterprises in Bangladesh.
  • The port city is the largest base of the Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard. The Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Air Force also maintains bases and contributes to the city’s economy.

Tapping Potential:

  • The vast economic potential of Chittagong, a city with unique advantages of ports, roads and railways, largely remains untapped.
  • Hosting about 40 percent of the country’s heavy industries and the second RMG heartland, the commercial city has the potential to cement the nation’s status & its future, with traditional and emerging sectors like tourism, shipbuilding and steel.


Improving port facilities-

  • There is room for improvement in the ways the Chittagong Port-which can become a bridge between ASEAN and SAARC-operates. Loading and unloading of cargo, reportedly, take a long time with various ‘hidden costs’ adding to the woes of exporters. Business leaders are demanding a deep-sea port in Sonadia, off the coast of Cox’s Bazaar.

Strengthening institutions-

  • Business communities have stressed the importance of financial institutions setting up head offices in the city making decision-making easier.
  • Polytechnics could be established for skill-development, Chittagong needs an entrepreneurial ecosystem supported by the government where doing business will not be hindered by bureaucratic inertia.
Sodhi Gautam

Sodhi Gautam

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