A high-powered business delegation from Singapore yesterday showed keen interest to invest in the banking and financial sector as it offers immense growth potential.
“There is business potential for foreign banks in Bangladesh and a few international banks already operate here,” said Teo Siong Seng, chairman of the Singapore Business Federation and the head of the delegation.
“We are aware of the country's economic growth. The country has been maintaining 6 percent to 7 percent GDP growth over the last few years.”
Seng spoke at the Bangladesh-Singapore Business Forum at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
He said Singaporean businessmen are also interested to invest in pharmaceuticals, shipping, engineering, construction, hospitality, power and infrastructure.
Other preferred areas for investors included ICT, professional services and credit rating services, he said.
Seng said Singapore has been able to become a business hub thanks to ease of doing business.
Jointly organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore, the forum was moderated by Sheikh Fazle Fahim, senior vice-president of the FBCCI.
Over the past decade, the Bangladesh economy has been one of the top performers in Asia, said Enamul Huque, head of global banking of Standard Chartered Bangladesh.
He said inflation has been moderate and public debt levels low by world standards.
“With a median age of 26.7, Bangladesh's young and growing working-age population will endow the country with the benefits of demographic dividend today and build a strong base for domestic consumption in the coming decades.”
“This means that Bangladesh will continue to see large investments from the world's supply chains – originally in the RMG sector, but now across industries,” he said.
Huque said with an inherently low cost-base, skilled labour force, developing infrastructure and export incentives, Bangladesh can also prove itself to be a strategic base for sunset industries from more advanced Asean markets that are looking to relocate, and the industries that find themselves in crosshairs of protectionist trade policies.
Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, urged Singaporeans to invest in energy and power as Bangladesh needs $40 billion in investment in the sector in the next five to six years.
Hamid said the government is going to sign an agreement with American multinational conglomerate GE in Dhaka today to produce 3,600 megawatt of power.
FBCCI President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said because of Bangladesh's geographical location, many countries are showing interest to invest in the country.
For instance, a Thai minister has recently instructed the businessmen of his country to invest in Bangladesh, he said.
Kazi M Aminul Islam, executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, said Bangladesh has the demographic dividend as the majority of the population is young.
“Foreign investors can take advantage of it.”
The Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore was set up in 2010 to facilitate bilateral trade between the two countries.
Nearly 300 Bangladeshi businessmen are doing business in Singapore, said Mohd Shahiduzzaman, president of the chamber.
The balance of two-way trade is heavily tilted towards Singapore.
In 2016-17, Bangladesh imported goods worth $2.44 billion and exported goods worth $335.12 million, according to the FBCCI.