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.
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.
“I wanted to be a doctor,” said Batashi, a 13-year-old girl with an infectious smile, “But I had to leave school after class 3, there was no one else to look after my brothers.”
I met Batashi on a muggy afternoon in Korail, the largest slum in Dhaka city. Nestled in the shadows of the city’s glitzy condo buildings, Korail is home to 16,000 families that cram into just .25 square kilometers. Driven from their rural homes by poverty, about 500,000 people – roughly the population of Washington DC – migrate to the city each year.
This makes Dhaka one of the fastest growing cities in the world – a dubious honor for an already overstretched city. It is estimated that by 2030, close to 100 million people – almost half the population of Bangladesh – will be living in urban areas. Many of these migrants will inevitably end up in slums like Korail.