Bangladesh has asked the Chinese government for $6.4bn for nine infrastructure projects, including an ambitious port project and the country’s longest bridge, Dhaka’s Financial Express reports.*
The Economic Relations Division, which made the request in a letter to the Chinese government, is hoping to elicit $1.6bn to expand Payra seaport and $1.2bn for a 10km-long bridge between the city of Barisal and the suburb of Bhola, across two rivers in the Ganges delta.
The Payra project, the first phase of which was completed in 2016, is eventually expected to cost up to $15bn.
So far, the China Harbour Engineering Company and China State Engineering and Construction Corp have been awarded contracts worth $600m, and the Jan De Nul Group, headquartered in Luxembourg, has secured a 10-year contract for the dredging work.
The port will require at least $1bn in dredging work to create a navigable channel to the Bay of Bengal, involving the shifting of 100 million cubic metres of material.
Other projects on the shopping list include $850m for a project to manage the Teesta river, $800m to improve electricity transmission and distribution, a technology park, an upgrade of Barisal-Kuakata highway to four lanes and the construction of sewerage in Dhaka.
China overtook India as Bangladesh’s largest trade partner in 2015, and has since become an important investor in its infrastructure. Altogether, China has funded, or will fund, projects worth $38bn in the country, $24bn of which were agreed during a visit by President Xi Jinping in 2016.
Last June, Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, signed an agreement to establish an Investment Cooperation Working Group with China, and this held its first meeting in Dhaka this year. The request for funds was made through this channel.
The proposal was made despite a Chinese suggestion that Bangladesh not bring forward new projects until those under way had been completed. Dhaka says its proposed schemes replace four projects worth $3.2bn that have received funding from other sources, such as the Dhaka-Sylhet motorway, which is being paid for by the Asian Development Bank.
In recent years China and India have used investment in Bangladeshi infrastructure as a way of gaining influence in the country, and Dhaka has made its request during a period of sharply increased tension between its two benefactors.
*GCR thanks reporter Mir Mostafizur Rahaman. Contact: [emailÂ protected]
Image: Bangladesh hopes to turn Payra into a global trade hub (Payra Port Authority)