Bangladesh’s consistent economic growth for over a decade has encouraged Singaporean businesspeople to explore investment opportunities in the country.
Soo Wei-Chieh, executive director of Singapore Business Federation (SBF), informed of this interest at a meeting with the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) at InterContinental Dhaka yesterday.
Coming to Dhaka on Saturday leading a 15-member delegation of the nation’s apex trade body and scheduled to stay till August 30, he said they sought to explore the opportunities and be informed of aspects such as tax, labour issues and financial system.
Some of the companies have shown interest in investing in environment, urbanisation, engineering and machinery, he said.
“Bangladesh is a promising market for us. Singaporean companies are showing interest in South Asia,” Wei-Chieh told the dialogue organised by the FBCCI and SBF.
He said Bangladesh’s large consumer base, of over 160 million, was lucrative and sectors like financial services, IT, business process outsourcing and education could be their target areas.
Though a small island country with per capita income of over S$90,000, Singapore does not have a lot of manufacturing industries or farmland.
However, top multinational companies and many countries prefer the East Asian country when pouring billions of dollars in export and import business.
They beelined over the years to set up headquarters there for its most openness in trade, for it being one of the least corrupt countries and for having one of most favourable logistic facilities globally. This shows up in Bangladesh and Singapore’s trade balance, which amounted to $2.83 billion in fiscal 2017-18, with Bangladesh exporting goods worth $0.13 billion and importing that of $2.7 billion, according to the FBCCI data.
Singapore is also one of the biggest markets for Bangladesh’s manpower export. About 150,000 Bangladeshis are currently working there.
FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim said as the 5th largest foreign direct investor, Singaporean companies have invested in power, manufacturing, information and communications, oil and gas, services, chemical engineering, textiles, agro-based products and printing and publishing.
The total FDI in Bangladesh upto December 2018 was $1.16 billion, he said, adding that, however, the potential for substantial investments was yet to materialise.
He said to attract FDI, one of the most liberal flexible investment regime in South Asia has been adopted in Bangladesh including generous tax holidays and exemptions, accelerated depreciation, tariff refunds, double taxation prevention and 100 percent foreign ownership.
Moreover, full repatriation of capital invested from foreign sources, including profits and dividends, is being facilitated, he said.
“Our competitive strengths in apparel, leather goods, pharmaceuticals, frozen seafood, ceramics, jute products, ICT, FMCG, home appliance and others are leading the way for business diversification,” said the FBCCI chief.
“Supplementing domestic strengths (are) our market access to the regional blocks of Saarc, BBIN, Bimstec, Apta, free market access to most developed countries and progress on FTA with Asian and Latin American countries,” said Fahim.
“...we are the destination to maximize opportunities in domestic, regional and global value chain,” he said.
In 2018, Bangladesh registered a record level of FDI growth at about 67.9 percent, reaching $3.61 billion, with significant portions coming from China, the Netherlands, UK, Singapore, Norway, USA, UAE, Japan and others, he said.