Duty- and quota-free access for exports to global markets is something developing country trade negotiators have demanded for years. Few other “stroke-of-the-pen” measures could boost employment and reduce poverty in low income countries in such large numbers. For instance if the US removed tariffs on Bangladeshi garments – which average around 13%, but for some items are as high as 33% – then exports to the US could rise by $1.5 billion from the FY13 level of $5 billion, in turn generating employment for at least an additional half a million, primarily female, workers. Examples of other countries facing US tariffs include Cambodia (12.8% average tariff rate on its exports to the US), India (4.01%), Indonesia (5.73%), and Vietnam (7.41%). Progress in trade facilitation would likely have even greater pay-offs to growth and employment, but these require structural reforms and investments, while the decision to remove tariffs is a simpler, “stroke-of-the-pen” measure.
South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.
South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region.
Vaccination is one of the effective strategies to prevent FMD infection. Due to a high rate of mutation in FMD virus, there is an urgent need for the development of safe and effective vaccines for FMD.
“Bangladesh spends a lot of money to import FMD vaccines – but these are produced for foreign strains of FMD viruses, and they are ineffective against the virus strains circulating in Bangladesh. We need to have vaccine development capacity of our own,” says Prof. Anwar Hossain, Department of Microbiology of University of Dhaka and Manager of the sub-project titled, Foot and Mouth Disease in Bangladesh: Genome Analysis and Vaccine Development Project.
Prof. Anwar’s sub-project was awarded a competitive research grant of BDT 23.7 million (about US 304,000) from the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). His project is conducting studies to determine variation in FMD virus of Bangladesh origin and developing appropriate methods of prevention against FMD viruses. Using the fund, Prof. Anwar and his team upgraded their laboratory with essential modern scientific equipment such as real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine to read DNA sequences and bio-safety cabinet together with a lot of indispensable laboratory consumables.
Since its inception in 2011, the sub-project has made significant achievements on their research work. These include completion of epidemiological study of serotype and lineage of FMD viruses, isolation and genome-wide analysis of FMD virus in Bangladesh, and publishing papers in international academic journals.
At the secondary level, the performance of students from the Middle East and North Africa in international tests such as TIMS is significantly below the developing country average.
At the tertiary level, universities are chronically underfunded and not training students for jobs that the market is demanding - reminiscent of the Woody Allen line, "The food in this restaurant is terrible and the portions are too small."
Traffic in Dhaka. Arne Hoel/World Bank
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has been dubbed as “the traffic capital of the world” because of its chaotic traffic and frequent traffic jams. Some say Dhaka needs more roads, because only 7% of land is covered by roads in Dhaka, while in many developed capital cities it is more than 20%. That argument may hold some water.
For many years, many cities in the world did try to build more roads to relief traffic jams after motorization took place. However, no city has been able to build itself out of congestion. In fact, allocating more urban land to roads means you have to reduce the portion of land allocated for other urban functions, such as housing, industrial, commercial and entertainment. What has also been widely recognized is that building more roads does NOT reduce traffic congestion. It would actually induce more motorized traffic and thus create more traffic congestion.