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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Exploiting the economic potentials of Bangladesh

Saifuzzaman Chowdhury

Bangladesh has all the natural endowments which are considered essential elements for a particular region to thrive as a very covetous trade and investment center. But owing to lack of prudence, myopic vision, lack of timely initiatives and policy interventions as well as weak commitment and slow implementation process of the schemes on part of the governments, the potentials are getting undermined.
Chittagong port has tremendous strategic geographic advantages which can contribute immensely for the country to be an ideal global trade and business pivot. It is the gateway of the country as well as of a vast landlocked region across the borders. This port has all the prospects to serve most economically and cost effectively the landlocked eight northeastern states of India, Nepal, Bhutan and a vast region of Myanmar and China. Those countries have also expressed their keen interest to use Chittagong Port for their international trade.
Bangladesh is also at the bridgehead point of the world’s two most burgeoning and vibrant economic blocks – SAARC and ASEAN. From Bangladesh particularly from Chittagong the vast market of the entire region which is the abode of about one third population of the world, can be served and covered most cost effectively. The proposed Trans Asian Highway and Railway are also expected to have direct linkage with Bangladesh. So, in future, Bangladesh will have all good international sea, air, rail and road communication linking SAARC and ASEAN at the middle. Simply this fact postulates the ample potential of trade and business development in Bangladesh.
Apart from this advantageous geographic location, Bangladesh has also natural gas, high quality coal reserves and hydropower generation scope, which also contributes towards rapid industrialization. Besides, the country has the world’s cheapest but intelligent and easily trainable huge abundant workforce, which can also amply contribute to promote and develop trade and investment in the country. Moreover, complete duty and quota free market access given by EU, Norway, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand and privileged market access granted by many other developed and higher developing countries to Bangladesh together with its other unique competitive edges, have surely bolstered the prospects and potentials of Bangladesh manifold to be developed as a lucrative centre for manufacturing and consequent investments.
Apart from having a unique strategic position and competitive edge, in order to cope with the newly evolving global economic and trade regime, the Government of Bangladesh, has also been pursuing a private sector led export oriented growth strategy, incorporating substantial restructuring at all economic fronts including export, import, banking, administration, laws and acts, privatization, investment, intellectual property rights, protection to wealth, etc. The strategies are aimed at catering to the growing need of trade and business. The government has also declared a very stimulating
incentive package programme to allure domestic as well as foreign investment.
In fact government’s role is no more regulatory rather promotional. To speak frankly, being encouraged by our liberal and lucrative incentive programmes and sensing the huge potential of investments, there has been a long queue of foreign investors to invest a huge amount in the country. In a nutshell, it can be safely said that Bangladesh is poised to emerge as a very attractive trade and investment destination for the potential entrepreneurs. Now it is the responsibility of the policy and decision makers of the country as to how effectively and rapidly they can harness these opportunities with their proactive leadership quality and forward looking measures
Based on our natural resources , strategic geographic location, distinct competitive edge and comparative advantages  sectors like petrochemicals and its dependent industries, oil refineries, pulp and paper industries, tourism and amusement industries, cement clinker, ship building and repairing industries, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and its ancillary industries, electrical and electronic industries, light engineering, leather and jute, melamine and ceramic industries, power generation, water treatment industry, deep draft port, telecommunication, composite textile garments backward linkage industries, timber, agro processing and gas based industries have huge prospects to grow in Bangladesh to cater to the vast domestic market as well as to utilise the privileged market access being enjoyed by Bangladesh from developed countries through export.
From the above delineation, it is evident that Bangladesh has all the prospects, potentials and distinct cutting edges to grow as a very lucrative and attractive epicenter of investment, if nurtured with forward looking vision and necessary policy supports. But ironically lack of vision and mission on part of the successive governments, dearth of prudence and statesmanship, lackadaisical effort, inconsistent and unpredictable policy measures, slow decision making process, lackluster and protracted implementation process, lack of proactiveness and leadership acuity have colossally contributed to under-exploitation of the ample potentials of Bangladesh.

The writer is former President, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry


Source:  The Independent, 12 August 2015

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