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Bangladesh pursuing policy of broader engagement with Europe: Shahriar Alam

Bangladesh is currently pursuing a policy of “broader engagement with Europe” to enhance interactions and cooperation with the countries in Europe, with a particular focus on trade and investment, the state minister for foreign affairs says.

“Organising visits at the highest level, concluding agreements/MoUs to enhance trade, ensuring more interactions among the chambers, sending business delegations are creating more opportunities for enhanced engagements between our businesses,” Md Shahriar Alam said, speaking on why countries should invest in Bangladesh.

The biggest bilateral chamber Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI) organised the business networking lunch on Sunday with its members titled ‘Foreign Direct Investment: Why Bangladesh?’

Chargé d’Affaires of German embassy Michael Schultheiss also spoke at the discussion chaired by BGCCI President Tawfiq Ali.

The state minister said Bangladesh has come a long way since 1971 and now is fast making an economic transformation. “From subsistence agriculture, it is becoming marginalized, process oriented, diversified and value added economy.”

The manufacturing and the service sectors occupy four-fifth of Bangladesh’s GDP.

Science, technology and innovation are increasingly becoming the hallmark of the present day economic activities in Bangladesh.

“We are now working to establish 100 economic zones in different parts of the country as part of our new plan to industrialise Bangladesh inclusively – 76 have already been identified, four private EZs and two public, private partnership EZs have been prepared for investment,” he said.

“We are also developing a number of Hi-tech parks,” he said, inviting German companies to take advantage of these new economic opportunities through building new business partnerships in Bangladesh.

He also cited some global reports that portrayed Bangladesh’s development.

The PwC report projected Bangladesh as one of the three fastest growing economies globally over the next three decades along with India and Vietnam.


28th largest economy

Bangladesh is also projected to become the 28th largest economy by 2030, and 23rd by 2050.

The UK daily ‘Financial Times’ reported Bangladesh’s economic growth in comparison with China in an article that “What Bangladesh has done is all the more remarkable because the world has taken so little notice”.

“We are strategically located right in the proximity to China, India and ASEAN countries. Our participation in the One Belt, One Road connects us with Europe directly, as has been envisioned in OBOR,” the state minister said.

He said Bangladesh is focused on “building robust and quality infrastructure to augment growth and sustainable development”.

Partners like China, Japan and India have stepped in with multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects in railways, bridges, highways, mass urban rapid transit network, power plants, renewable energy.
And in that regard, Bangladesh is opening up to private sector – from home and abroad – in so many forms from independent power producers to private LPG operators.

Bangladesh is simplifying the policies, regulations, bureaucratic processing to create a far more competitive environment to attract foreign investment, the state minister said explaining why should FDI come to Bangladesh.

As part of revamping process, he said, the government has launched the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority or BIDA, a one-stop service law to facilitate expeditious services and support to the investors.


Demographic advantage

He also said that Bangladesh is estimated to have over 30 million middle and affluent population.

At the same time, it is projected that by 2030, around 48.3 percent Bangladesh population will be living in urban space. “Such a growing an urban population would obviously spur consumer spending many times more”.

“These are inviting the attention of global brands on Bangladesh. Coca Cola, for instance, has now decided to invest directly in Bangladesh,” the state minister said.

“Increasing number of global chains are similarly making the foray into Bangladesh market.”

He said German multinationals are already engaged in the development of critical infrastructure in Bangladesh, particularly in textile, power and energy sectors.

He said the German political foundation FES (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would co-organise an “expert meeting on SMEs: German lessons learned for Bangladesh” on Sept 28.

Currently, SME sectors contribute roughly 28-29 percent in Bangladesh, whereas this is approximately 55 percent for Germany.

“We, with participation from the German embassy and German SME organisation, hope to build a new platform where our two businesses could find new areas for collaboration and cooperation in future,” he said.

The chargé d’affaires said Bangladesh is a rising star, citing global rankings.

He said the bilateral trade of Euro 5.6 billion is heavily in favour of Bangladesh.

To improve German’s export, he insisted investment in Bangladesh.

“The potential is huge but still untapped.”

“Most of the German companies are reinvesting – it shows that who are here they are happy to reinvest as they realize what’s potential is.”

But he said the perception of Bangladesh in Germany is that it is a country of the flood, calamities, Rana Plaza and terrorist attacks as media always portray those things.

But, there are so many success stories too -people-to-people contact.

“Infrastructure, bureaucracy and corruption need to be tackled,” he said.

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