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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Economic zone can boost Chinese FDI

Says ambassador Ma Mingqiang
Ma Mingqiang
Diplomatic Correspondent

The foreign direct investment (FDI) by China in Bangladesh can witness a phenomenal boost with an economic zone in place for Chinese investors, said new Chinese envoy Ma Mingqiang. 
“There could be a 50 percent increase [in FDI],” said Mingqiang, adding, “Private companies are investing everywhere. If they are confident enough and are not left alone, they will be coming in more numbers.”
Dhaka has already cleared allocation of a separate economic and industrial zone in Chittagong for Chinese investors.
Talking with senior journalists at The Daily Star during his first courtesy visit yesterday, the ambassador also said trade was heavily in favour of China, but Bangladesh's export to his country was also increasing.
The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam welcomed the Chinese ambassador and moderated the session.
The ambassador said Bangladesh had a huge potential in quality leather, which could tap the Chinese market. Garment products were also being exported there, while there were many other opportunities that needed to be tapped by Bangladesh, he observed.
In reply to a question, the ambassador said China provided grants and concessionary loan to Bangladesh. The interest rate was set at 2 percent and China did not impose any conditions, he added.
“We don't have any conditional loan with Bangladesh,” he claimed.
Historically, Chinese loans to Bangladesh had mostly been hard in nature. In recent years, China provided $224 million loan for the second unit of Barapukuria coal power project with an interest rate of 6.5 percent.
“The good thing is that the Chinese loan is very speedy,” he said and added that his government was considering Bangladesh's plea to further slash the interest rate to the standards of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
“We are working on it,” he said.
Moreover, he said the Chinese loan was not only very speedy but the cost of projects funded by them was also much lower compared to other countries.
Asked about delay in completion of several projects in Bangladesh, the envoy said Chinese companies were fully capable in terms of their technological expertise and financial power.
However, in some cases they were not familiar with circumstances, legal complexities, social factors and atmosphere in other countries, which might cause some delay, he added.
He noted that Sinohydro had delayed the Dhaka-Chittagong highway expansion project due to various reasons but expressed the hope that it would be completed without further delay.
Mentioning the Chinese company that would build the Padma bridge, he said it had the expertise in constructing the longest 46-kilometre bridge over sea in China.
In reply to another question, Ambassador Ma said China was currently assisting several mega projects in Bangladesh with loans and grants in the areas of water treatment plant, tunnel under the Karnaphuli river, construction of railroad and bridge, establishment of refinery data centre for telecom, among others.
China was also assisting construction of the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar broad-gauge railway track and setting up of a coal-based power plant.
He said China assured Bangladesh of setting up a hybrid rice research centre so that Bangladesh could grow more crops and be self-reliant in food.
About Chinese initiative of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the ambassador said the project was not solely by China as it would be designed by all, would have ownership of all and the main objective was win-win for all stakeholders.
“It's a very much inclusive project and everybody will get benefit from it.”
On India-China relationship, he said the two giants of Asia had very collaborative initiatives and strong partnership for economic development. “We want peaceful coexistence and grow together for the benefit of the people.”
In this context, he said Bangladesh had unique opportunities to grow and develop as it was a bridge between Southeast and South Asia and its location was strategically very important.
“My mission is to further cement and consolidate the bilateral relations with you,” he said, noting that media had a critical role in enhancing mutual understanding and trust among the people.
“Diplomats come and go, the governments come and go, but the people remain. “You are the one who can help us having people's support for us,” he added.

Chinese embassy officials Hu Hailiang and Li Guanya accompanied the ambassador.

The Daily Star, 08 April 2015