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PM opens Int’l Investors’ Forum Investment in B’desh urged

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Staff Reporter
Urging the investors to opt for Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday urged them to take advantage of the country’s open and favorable regulatory regime, skilled workforce, and strategic location in Asia to expand their businesses.
“The government of Bangladesh is committed to stay on its upward course to attract FDI and maintain investment-friendly environment for our economic development… select Bangladesh for investment,” she said, inaugurating the day-long International Investors' Forum, 2014 at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the city.
Chaired by BoI executive chairman Dr Syed A Samad, the inaugural session was also addressed by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, FBCCI president Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, and President of France-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCIFB) and Chief Executive Officer of Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd Tarek Ahmed ELBA.
PMO Senior Secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad gave the welcome address while IFC, World Bank Group country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Kyle F Kelhoper made the opening remarks.
The Prime Minister along with the guests at the dais also launched the Investment Facilitation & Regulatory Guidebooks by BoI and BUILD.
Organized by the BoI, a total of 273 investors from 21 countries, including Bangladesh, attended the daylong seminar aiming at attracting local and foreign investment.
In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister said that traditional trade and investment paradigms are shifting with a view to accumulating higher degree of south-south cooperation.
“A dynamic private sector can take advantage of this change, with the support of their respective governments, to ensure a robust and sustainable economic growth.”
Welcoming all to be a part in making the economy of Bangladesh a dynamic and growing one, she hoped that this will be a continuous process. “We can build on the successes of this Forum to generate further interest in improving trade and investment in the region,” she said.
Hasina said that her government offers the most liberal FDI regime in South Asia, allowing for 100 percent foreign equity, unrestricted remittance policy, and repatriation of profits and incomes, technical assistance fee and royalty fee.
She also listed various concrete steps taken by her government and substantial reform initiatives in the recent years to address issues raised by the business community and shown Bangladesh's commitment to tackle major investment constraints through focusing priority on enabling power and energy infrastructures, establishing Digital Bangladesh, improving the communication infrastructure across the country through mega-investments in roads and highways, with future plans to expand inland waterways and port facilities plus information and communication technology.
The government has so far finalized the setting up of five Economic Zones while steps have been taken to establish another 13 Economic Zones. The existing eight EPZs have so far attracted $ 3.20 billion while the present government is committed to expanding the future potential for private investment zones, taking huge strides in the 'Digital Bangladesh' process such as simplifying the investors services including entry process through online systems for registration of investment projects, companies registration, TIN, land, intellectual properties (patent, design, trademarks).
The Prime Minister said that the South Asian countries such as Bangladesh are rightly positioned to take in the lessons of global growth models and initiate its own unique journey towards reform and growth.
She mentioned that the Bay of Bengal Growth Triangle can help trigger economic breakthroughs with an increase in trade and investments amongst the South and East Asian neighbors, as well as with China and Japan.
“Our interests are directly linked with the sea. The major obstacle till recently was the unresolved issue of maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. My initiatives on this have now resulted in the delimitation of boundaries with our neighbors who have got its rightful share in the Bay of Bengal,” Hasina said.
“Now Bangladesh can explore natural resources up to 354 nautical miles from the coast lines, the blue economy has opened up of immense possibilities of mobilizing sea resources, which are boundless, the government has already started working with some of these major economies, building strategic relationships and setting up high-level government teams to work together to develop regional value chains.
“This is the way to the future and most major economies have benefited from integrated production bases and collaborative growth models. Asian countries need to catch up,” she added.
The Prime Minister said that during the last five years, the economy of Bangladesh has also achieved a growth rate of 6.2 percent on average while the key contributor to such economic development has been the ability to attract private investment, both foreign and local, spur growth in regional trade, as well as nurture existing investments.
“South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions in the world with almost a quarter of the world's population, the region accounts for only 2 percent of the world's FDI. Compared to the global average of $643, the region attracts less than $20 of FDI per capita.”
She said that intra-regional FDI is even less significant, amounting to an average of about $300 million per year. It thus accounts for just about 1 percent of overall investment into the region.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister said South Asia offers opportunities in terms of the largest market, with a burgeoning middle-class and tremendous business opportunities for investors looking to tap into the domestic consumer base as well as diversity and expend their export markets. Growth in this region has been both export and consumption led.
She added: “There is also an increasing awareness that regional economic integration offers unique opportunities to address some of the key economic challenges such as infrastructure development, trade flows and access to markets.”
In order to achieve the middle income economy status by 2021, Hasina said that her government has been working hard on establishing a true one stop services facility for the private sector investors, revisiting and simplifying old, irrelevant legal and regulatory issues.
All these are for helping doing business easier, encouraging private sector participation in all the sectors and services as well as special emphasis on exploiting the untapped marine and natural resources in the Bay of Bengal as Bangladesh now have the boundaries legally defined, she added.