End unrest to attract more foreign investment | The Daily Star
01:10 AM, March 02, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:59 AM, March 05, 2015

End unrest to attract more foreign investment

Swiss official says better trade ties hinge on political calm
Gazi Towhid Ahmed

Bangladesh needs to improve its political situation to grab more investment from abroad, said Johannes Matyassy, assistant state secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

Political stability is one of the main factors to attracting Swiss companies to invest in the country, Matyassy told The Daily Star in an interview. 

For instance, Bangladesh passed a politically stable 2014 when trade between the two countries grew more than 10 percent. “This shows the importance of having a stable political situation,” he said. 

It is not the responsibility of Switzerland or any other country to give advice on finding a solution to the crisis; Bangladesh will have to do so, he said. 

“What we can do is to show the advantages of political stability, but to find a solution is the responsibility of the country's political parties and society as well,” Matyassy said.  

“Our experience shows that dialogue between all the political parties is probably a good way.”

The country has strong potential in export and most companies here are adopting high-end machinery and technologies, which is a good sign, he said.

The country has cheap labour, which is a big advantage, he said. “Bangladesh has strong potential in solar energy. Some Swiss firms are giving priority to Bangladesh.”

A total of nine big Swiss companies have already invested in Bangladesh and around 100 companies are doing business through their representatives. The Swiss companies have investments in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, agro-food and construction, he said.

Swiss small and medium enterprises are also gradually becoming interested in Bangladesh, he added.

Bangladesh should address issues such as governance, energy supply, infrastructure and legal protection to create a greater business friendly environment, he said.

The country's main advantages are a huge market and young workforce; it has a very important geographical location as well, he said.

“We are interested in some issues, like regional integration.” The country is part of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, and Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation, he said.

“We also think it is important for Switzerland to connect to Bangladesh to make use of its regional integration.”

The country has made good progress in ensuring factory safety after the Rana Plaza building collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire, he said.

Trade ties between the two countries are growing fast. “The bilateral trade volume registered a significant year-on-year growth of 10.5 percent in 2014 to reach $481.43 million.”

Bangladesh has long been a priority for Switzerland in development cooperation, the official said.

The Swiss Cooperation Strategy for Bangladesh for the period between 2013 and 2017 identifies some areas -- skills development, market development and local governance -- where Switzerland will continue to support Bangladesh, he said.

The annual Swiss grant contributions for Bangladesh currently stand at around $35 million. Of all items imported from Bangladesh last year, 95 percent were textiles and apparel products.

Switzerland can become an important market for Bangladesh's other emerging sectors, namely IT, leather, high-end garments and ceramic products, he said. Switzerland primarily exports chemicals, pharmaceutical products and industrial machinery to Bangladesh.

However, Switzerland can also provide Bangladesh with attractive hi-tech and clean-tech solutions, where Switzerland has particular expertise, Matyassy said.     

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