The country's reserve is being used to finance development activities, imports and the people's welfare, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Thursday.
Inaugurating several development schemes at the Payra Seaport, which is being financed using the country's own resources, she said, "The Payra port is the first project which is being developed with money taken from the Bangladesh Infrastructure Development Fund. In the future, we will also use money from our reserve for various infrastructural projects."
Hasina said she formed the Bangladesh Infrastructure Development Fund with the reserve money, the BSS reported.
At a time when the country's foreign reserve is depleting – dropping below $36 billion last week – due to swelling cost of imports, Hasina said, "Many might question why the reserve is being used. We are not amassing money in the reserve; rather, we are using it for the people, for buying food, for buying fertiliser."
Attending the inauguration virtually from her official Ganabhaban residence, she said the money was being used for the people's welfare and none of it was misappropriated.
The PM also laid foundation stones of several development schemes at the Payra Seaport costing Tk11,072 crore.
The works included capital dredging of the seaport's Rabnabad channel, launching of eight ships, first terminal and construction of a six-lane approach road and a bridge.
Briefly describing the projects taken for the development of the naval routes, the premier said, "Bangladesh's economy would be more vibrant, stronger and developed once the measures taken by us are completed."
The PM said she had a desire to start the development works of the Payra Seaport with own finances as many hurdles would have to be faced in getting foreign loans.
Hasina said the Payra Seaport Authority has been given a loan from the fund at a low interest to implement the development projects and they may have to pay 1%-2% interest with service charge for that.
She said her government has been developing all the modes of communication – road, rail, air and water – but their priority is developing naval routes across the country to ensure transportation of goods at the cheapest rate, the BSS reported added.
Hasina stressed the need for continuing dredging of the naval routes every year after their capital dredging to maintain their navigability.
She said her government is arranging dredgers for every seaport as maintenance dredging is required every year to ensure navigability of the ports.
The premier said her government wanted to connect the seaport with North Bengal and it can also be connected with Assam of India and Bhutan, adding that her government had already allowed India, Nepal and Bhutan to use the Mongla and Chattogram seaports.
She said the Payra Seaport has a special importance as it is situated between Mongla and Chattogram seaports, adding that it has so far earned revenue worth over Tk600 crore since operation started.
Hasina inaugurated the Payra Seaport on 19 November 2013 and so far, 236 sea-going ships have arrived at the port.
Eight ships, a six-lane connecting road, and the foundation stone of a bridge over Andharmanik River were inaugurated Thursday by the PM.
Seven out of the eight ships have been built in Bangladesh, costing over Tk209 crore in total. The eight vessels inaugurated include two pilot vessels, two heavy duty speedboats, a buoy laying vessel, a survey boat and two tugboats.
These will monitor the arrival and departure of foreign ships and do maintenance work of the channel.
The capital dredging, costing Tk4,950 crore, of the seaport's Rabnabad channel will create a 75km-long, 100-125meter-wide and 10.5meter-deep channel, building a capacity to dock 40,000 tonnes of cargo or 3000 container-laden ships at the port.
Once the construction of the first terminal, the 6.35km six-lane highway and the bridge is completed, three foreign ships carrying containers or bulk cargos will be able to dock simultaneously at the Payra Seaport.
After completion of the construction work of the first terminal at a cost of Tk4,516.75 crore, it will be opened for operation by December, 2023.
A 1,180 metre-long bridge will also be built at a cost of Tk740 crore over the Andharmanik river to transport goods to the Payra Seaport. The bridge is expected to be constructed in 30 months, the BSS report said.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, MP, Shipping Secretary Md Mostafa Kamal and Payra Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Sohail spoke at the function held at Payra Port, Kalapara in Patuakhali.
A documentary on the Payra Port and the development projects was screened on the occasion.