Bangladesh must get ready for competition
Bangladesh's government, business community and civil society should brace themselves for competition in bringing in more foreign direct investment to the country, said a top South Korean businessman yesterday.
"Competition is everywhere, even in attracting FDIs," said Kihak Sung, chairman of Korea-Bangladesh Economic Cooperation Committee.
Sung was speaking at a seminar on 'investment climate and the current situation of Bangladesh economy' at the conference centre of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) in Dhaka.
Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and FBCCI jointly organised the seminar, in association with Korea-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KBCCI).
FBCCI President AK Azad presided over the discussion, while South Korean Ambassador Taiyoung Cho spoke as the chief guest.
The seminar came as a follow-up to Bangladeshi prime minister's visit to South Korea in April this year.
Cho said the visit, the first ever by a top Bangladeshi leader in around 15 years, has taken the relations between the two countries to a new high.
Azad said Bangladesh has offered various liberal packages and incentives for the foreign investors such as full foreign ownership, tax holiday, accelerated depreciation, concessionary duty on imported capital machinery, complete legal protection and unrestricted repatriation of capital and profit.
He said Bangladesh is located between the emerging markets of South Asia and the fastest growing markets of Southeast Asia and ASEAN countries. "Thus the country offers tremendous opportunities in terms of geo-strategic location to foreign firms who intend to operate in the region."
The top business leader urged the Korean investors to invest in the major potential sectors including readymade garments, energy, telecommunications, fisheries, leather and light industries.
The external trade between Bangladesh and South Korea tilts heavily in favour of the latter, as Dhaka exported goods worth $140.28 million in 2009-10 to Seoul, against imports of $838.36 million.
The third largest economy in Asia and the 13th in the world, South Korea has invested $1.1 billion in Bangladesh since diplomatic ties were established between the countries in 1972.
Given the dynamic diplomatic relationships between the two countries, the amount of investment is not enough, said Cho.
The Korean envoy said Bangladesh has been registering 6-7 percent annual economic growth for a few years and is one of a few countries that have successfully evaded the global economic crisis. "I think we can buy more from each other,” he said.
He said once completed, the Korean Export Processing Zone, the country's first private economic zone, will bring new experience in the area of EPZs and for Bangladesh economy as a whole.
“In terms of benefit, it will create around 350,000 jobs and help increase Bangladesh's export, exceeding $1.1 billion a year,” the diplomat said.
Cho urged all stakeholders to complete the EPZ project as early as possible, as 15 years have passed since the two governments had first agreed to set up the project.
He also suggested the Bangladesh government present the country as an attractive option for the international companies.
Sung, also the chairman and chief executive of Youngone Corporation, the first South Korean company to set up business venture in Bangladesh, said businessmen from both countries should explore and harness all available options to further trade relations.
He said the government's support is crucial to attracting investment and export orders.
"Many successful global companies now want to bring their business to Bangladesh, so you have to seize the opportunity," he said.
An agreement between FBCCI and KCCI was also signed on the occasion to foster cooperation between the business communities of the two countries.
Mohammad Liakat Ali, member of executive council of Board of Investment, presented a keynote paper on the current investment scenario in Bangladesh.
KBCCI Director ASM Mainuddin Monem also spoke.