Describing the investment environment in Bangladesh as the most liberal in South Asia, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday urged the world investors, particularly those from India, to invest in the country’s various sectors including education, automotive industry and light engineering.
‘It is time for global investors, particularly Indian entrepreneurs, to invest in Bangladesh in areas like education, light engineering, electronics, automotive industry, artificial Intelligence – beyond the conventional menu,’ she said while addressing the Country Strategy Dialogue on Bangladesh as the chief guest in the India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum at Hotel Taj Palace in New Delhi.
She went on saying, ‘Today, Bangladesh offers the most liberal investment regime in South Asia — in terms of legal protection of foreign investment, generous fiscal incentives, concession on machinery import, unrestricted exit policy, full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit, for example.’
Spelling out the government measures to attract foreign investment, the prime minister said, ‘We are establishing 100 special economic zones, with one-stop service across Bangladesh. Twelve of the zones are already functioning and two of them have been reserved for Indian investors. A number of hightech parks are also ready for technology and innovative enterprises.’
As many as 800 representatives from 40 countries are taking part in the two-day summit which is to end today when the Bangladeshi prime minister will give a speech at the closing session.
Hasina said that Bangladesh deserved the attention of global and Indian businesses as a seamless economic space and it could serve as the economic hub for the sub-region.
Referring to the last year’s HSBC prediction, she said that Bangladesh would be the 26th largest economy in the World by 2030.
‘Two things are key — one is our open society, religious harmony, liberal values and secular culture. The other is that two-thirds of our homogenous population is young – mostly under 25. They are fast learners, adaptive to technologies and ready to engage at competitive wages,’ she opined.
Noting that Bangladesh offers a stable and humanitarian state, where leadership is responsive and responsible, the prime minister said, ‘That coupled with sound macro-economic fundamentals, pragmatic and open economy shall continue to set global trends and examples of a peaceful and progressive nation.’
‘This year, our economy posted a record high growth of 8.1 per cent. We are close to achieving a double digit growth. Since 2009, Bangladesh’s economy has grown by 188 per cent in size. Our per capita income is around $2,000,’ she added.
Describing Bangladesh as a country that was moving fast towards becoming a high-value, knowledgeintensive society, beyond apparel manufacturing, Hasina said, ‘Last year, we exported 12 industrial robots to Korea. Four ships made in Bangladesh have come to India.’
The prime minister said that the Indian Reliance recently purchased large quantity of refrigerators made in Bangladesh.
‘Bangladesh also has six lakh IT freelancers – the largest freelancing community. These speak of a quiet transformation where people have taken risks and faced challenges by adapting to innovation and technology,’ she said.
In regards to agriculture, she said, ‘Our agriculture is no longer a subsistence one. Beyond selfsufficiency, we are now the fourth largest country in rice production, second in jute, fourth in mango, fifth in vegetable production and fourth in inland fisheries in the world. We are decoding the genome of key crops and fruits to move further.’
About transforming the country into a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ since 2009, the prime minister said, ‘We have ensured 100 per cent access to information and communication technology for people at the grassroots. Our focus is to employ technology to solve common people’s developmental challenges.’
‘Bangladesh has the fifth largest internet user population in the Asia-Pacific. We are fast moving towards a cashless society. Last year, e-commerce transactions reached $260 million,’ she added.
‘Bangladesh is urbanising fast. By 2030, about 48 per cent of our population will live in towns and cities. Most of them will be young, energetic and digitally connected,’ she told the summit, adding that there were already over 110 million active internet subscribers in Bangladesh.
By 2025, mobile internet penetration would reach 41 per cent of the population and over 30 million middle class was ‘indeed a huge market’, she said.
The WEF leaders, including its president Borge Brende highly praised prime minister Sheikh Hasina for her leadership in the massive economic development of Bangladesh such as achieving remarkable growth in GDP and successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Highlighting various measures taken by the government for attracting foreign investment, PM’s private industry and investment adviser Salman F Rahman told the seminar that an environment friendly environment is prevailing in Bangladesh.