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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Enough with Dhaka, move to Chittagong

We ask questions, we seek answers, we remain curious, as we loiter around the streets of Dhaka. Its true that not all answers are found readily, some questions are meant never to be answered perhaps, you are expected to understand which are those questions. For example, one of the questions that keeps me haunting is trying to find out the rationale why the head office of the Coast Guards of Bangladesh is situtated next to my apartment in a residential area? I also try to find out how far is the coast line of Bangladesh from my apartment, my neighborhood and why the head quarters of the saviours of Bangladeshi coastline is choking my small alley? Similarly, everytime I ply through the airport road and the deadly warship and the torpedo intrigue me wondering why even the headquarters of Navy is situated in Banani and not in Chittagong? Well, let me very carefully shy away from blogging about men in uniform and their headquarters, that is not the point, the poing I am trying to drive home is...the reason why on earth and on Bangladesh...Chittagong has been kept at the back seat for so long?

Not only the government offices, I wonder how many of Bangladeshi corporates have their head offices in Chittagong. I am not talking about mere branch offices, I am talking about full fledged, fully functional and possibly flashy headquarter mansions in Chittagong, which merits to be the 'Business Capital' of this country. However, before pointing fingers at others, let me first reflect on my own reasons, why I don't live in Chittagong in the first place, if I love it so much and am advocating it to be officially called the Business Cap of Bangladesh.

1. I live in Dhaka because of historical reasons, since my father owns a house in Dhaka which he got from the government, I grew up there too and thus stay in Dhaka.

2. I am not rich enough yet to buy an apartment in Chittagong and live there

3. The company I work in does not have any function or any activity whatsoever in Chittagong, so I am assigned in Dhaka only

4. I never had any amourous relationship with any woman from chittagong, which never made me think of settling in the port city, or even asking 'would be father-in-laws' for an apartment by the sea side as dowry.

Now I wonder, in a layman's knowedge level, why should Chittagong be the business capital of Bangladesh.

1. It has a port
2. It is close to one of best tourist locations of Bangladesh i.e. Coxs Bazar and the Hill Tracts
3. It has an airport
4. There is still room (literally too) for some modern urban planning to make the city livable, unlike Dhaka which has become unlivable, unmovable, undoable.
5. Many industries are already located in or around Chittagong
6. Chittagong region has a history of great businesspersons and business ventures

So what can be done to encourage more businesses to set up their activities in Chittagong?

1. Offer some sort of tax incentives, lower loan rate for those willing to have their businesses in Chittagong
2. If 'Brand Bangladesh' is targeted more towards external audience i.e. foreign investors, 'Brand Chittagong' campaign should be targeted towards internal audience, and the lead needs to come from those who hail from the great port city
3. Chambers of Industries can take up a role to insist on having headquarters of their member businesses in Chittagong
4. Employees can be offered cash incentives, holiday incentives for accepting to stay in Chittagong on a rotational basis or even permanently. This influx of work force in Chittagong would eventually make way for better services in that region, also creating more demand in domestic/regional tourism surrounding the city.

Well, count these as some really rudimentary thoughts of a curious passer-by like me, who asks questions, sometimes uncomfortable ones for some, but seeks answers...that is for you to give. That is as Karachi is for Pakistan, Mumbai for India, where the political and commercial capitals are kept separate, its high time that we make the Gateway to Bangladesh...that is Chittagong...the Business Capital of Bangladesh. Time to move Motijheel and Gulshan office-para to Halishahar and Agrabad. Perhaps its easier to build from scratch an intelligent 'Vision City' in Chittagong like Putra Jaya in Malaysia than thinking of how to clear the mess and chaos in Dhaka. And the Bangladeshi businesses hold the key to this change in mindset.


Fia said...

No wonder when I say a particular city's name from BD ,no single foriegnerr identifies any city in bangladesh except Dhaka ! this is a clear explation and result of limited urban planning , bad economic policies or perhaps policies with no foresight . Chittagong is a beautiful city , with reasonably good infrustructure and less crowded .
When I was 11 yrs old I asked my parents "we have Jeddah as a thriving , bustling , commercial city and riyadh being the capital, center of everything , we have two major city that is often mentioned everywhere - why not Bangladesh have the same ?" Mom replied , 'yeah we will have in few yrs time ' 8yrs gone - and I am still waiting . There are so many ways to attract business to locate there ,but has anyone thought of it ?

BApPI said...

We really need to find out an alternative to Dhaka. We are not at all prepared or neither have any contingency plan to save Dhaka from any disaster. Almost all the Big corporates are in Dhaka.
Dhaka is becoming an unlivable city not only for the notorious traffic but for increasing leaving cost as well.Recently, I have taken couple of annoying pictures of Traffics in Uttara, I think i shall be sharing those with you very soon.

Ahmed Ali said...

I think we should improve Dhaka because it is far from perfect. Relying on Chittagong just makes it worse as we have two of each problems to deal with.

I've heard people say that 90% of the business is in Dhaka. And lets be honest that Dhaka and Chittagong are not that far apart in the first place.

Also Dhaka is expanding rather fast. We need a rapid transit system in place (subway) to ease the traffic. Bangladesh doesn't have the money to spend on two subway systems.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to Bangladesh. However, you have a good point there Shehzaad. Before moving the bussiness cap to Chittagong, i believe transportation to Chittagoin should be easy and viable. Putrajaya is approximately 50km for the City of Kuala Lumpur. Though it is considered far for some, but the roads connect to Putrajaya from all states in west Malaysia is awesome! Travelling on the MEX Highway from KL to Putrajaya takes only 30 mins maximum. How far and how long does it take to travel from Dhaka to Chittagong??