Create new business partnership with Bangladesh, PM to US investors

September 27, 2014

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the US investors to create a new business partnership to help Bangladesh become a middle income country by 2021.
‘As we aspire to become a middle-income country by 2021, I call upon the US entrepreneurs to create new business partnerships by investing more to take Bangladesh-US relations to newer heights,’ she said.
The prime minister said this while addressing a luncheon hosted by US Chamber and US Business Council at Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on Thursday.
Hasina said the current US investment in Bangladesh to the tune of $331 million was much under its potential.
‘Apart from energy and power sectors, there are some investments slowly building up in financial sectors. Yet we need more diverse group of US investors taking advantage of Bangladesh’s liberal investment policy,’ she said.
The prime minister said her government had leapfrogged the liberal fiscal incentives for foreign investors.
‘These include a most generous tax holiday, concessionary duty on import of machinery, remittance of royalty, 100 per cent foreign equity, unrestricted exit policy, a full repatriation facility of dividend and capital on exit and many more,’ she said.
Hasina said her government had created seven exclusive economic zones whereby foreign private companies could take lease of industrial land and set up labour intensive industry.
‘We have more than 80 million young energetic workforce available for industrial recruitment as labour and we also have 160 million consumers as your market,’ she said.
Apart from power and energy sector, she said, the present government is keen on increasing FDI in our booming shipbuilding and recycling sectors, chemical fertilisers, automobile and light engineering, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, ceramic, plastic and jute goods, ICT, marine resource extraction, tourism, medical equipment and telecommunication.
‘We are also giving more thrust on establishment of knowledge based hi-tech industries and our vision is to transform Bangladesh into an industrialised digitized middle income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041,’ she said.
Hasina said the relations between Bangladesh and the US are deeply entrenched in common values, shared interests and mutual benefits.
The prime minister mentioned that when she travelled to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, she was advised by Bangladesh ambassador to the United States to meet business and corporate leaders from the USA.
‘Unless I am really time-constrained, my answer has been always been a “yes”,’ she said.
‘This is so due to three reasons. First, is the merit of the excellent bilateral relations that Bangladesh enjoys with the United States,’ she said.
Second, she said, is the importance that my government attaches to the fast-tracking of trade, investment and business opportunities with the US private sector. ‘And third, to keep you informed of the social and economic transformations that Bangladesh is undergoing under our Vision 2021,’ she added.
Highlighting her government’s steps to promote US businesses in Bangladesh, the prime minister said when Awami League government took office in 1996, US investment in Bangladesh was about $25 million.
‘When we left office in 2001, we had already pushed it to $1.2 billion,’ she said.
Hasina said the government facilitated US companies such as the AES to be the pioneer of foreign private investment in the power and energy sector in Bangladesh.
‘They launched the Haripur and Meghnaghat power plants and boosted the investment numbers by manifolds. Unfortunately, when my government came back to office in 2009 after 7
years, we found that US investment in Bangladesh had plummeted to under $40 million,’ she said.
During the past five years, she said, her government pursued every possible avenue to enhance US direct investment in Bangladesh.
‘From a meagre $36.34 million in 2009, in two years time in 2011, we secured $117.74 million worth of US investment. Between 2009 and 2013 total US investments in Bangladesh increased to the tune of $331.35 million,’ she said.
In 2014, the prime minister said, US still stands to be the second largest foreign direct investor in Bangladesh. ‘And yet this is still low considering your global investment scales. I would personally want to see these numbers go past the billion-dollar mark within the next three years,’ she said.
‘During my second tenure in office, my government successfully resolved our maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar and India,’ she mentioned.
‘We are now base-free for offshore energy and Blue Ocean marine resources exploration. This time too, among others, we have appointed two major US companies through competitive processes,’ she added.
Hasina said if Bangladeshi products had a duty-free quota-free access to the US ports, this would generate millions of dollars surplus for US retailers.
‘They could in turn enhance money paid to the Bangladeshi manufacturers. And our RMG manufactures could then spend more money in the welfare of the workers,’ she said.
The prime minister said in the last one year, her government has taken significant reforms to improve wages, health, safety and working condition of RMG workers. ‘Over the past 4 years I personally ensured many-folds increase in minimum wage. From Tk 1,600 in 2009 it is now Tk 5,300 in 2013 for the apprentice,’ she said.
‘Last year with ILO, we adopted the Tripartite Plan of Action, the Occupational Safety and Health Policy, and amended the 2006 Labour Act to 2013 to ensure greater workers’ rights and safety,’ she added.
The prime minister said the government had recruited close to 1,000 inspectors and introduced a robust inspection regime. ‘Under the ILO-IFC supported better works programme, the number of trade unions has increased from 100 to 230,’ she mentioned.
‘We are partners with the North American retailers who have come up with the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.’ She said Bangladesh had signed the trade and investment cooperation forum agreement, ushering in a new era of economic cooperation between the two countries.
‘This will further boost the framework for our trade and investment cooperation. We have for the first time entered into an enhanced strategic cooperation with the US under a “Partnership Dialogue” framework,’ she said.

-With New Age input

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