IFC keen to support agro industries, infrastructure | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 05, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 05, 2008

IFC keen to support agro industries, infrastructure

CEO tells The Daily Star

Lars H Thunell

The International Finance Corporation is set to expand its operations in Bangladesh, particularly in infrastructure and agro-processing, Lars H Thunell, its executive vice president and CEO, said yesterday.
The chief executive officer of the lending agency said Bangladesh has achieved a lot of economic developments over the last few years, but he believes the country still has more to do in the infrastructure and agriculture areas.
Thunell however emphasised building a public-private partnership to carry out these properly.
"Bangladesh needs to focus on agriculture and agro-processed industries following continued increase in food prices in the international market," he told The Daily Star in an interview at Radisson Hotel.
Development of agriculture has had three times higher impacts on the poor than the regular manufacturing sector, he said, quoting a World Bank study.
A senior IFC official who asked not to be named told The Daily Star that Finance Adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam at a meeting on Monday with Thunell asked him to extend IFC support to build the Padma Bridge and to raise the value addition of farm output through providing logistic support.
"The IFC is discussing with the Pran Group and Kazi Farm, two major agri-farms in the country, to help them expand their business," he added.
The finance adviser also asked the IFC to invest in the private sector on an equity basis instead of direct loans. This would help create a vibrant capital market, the official said.
On infrastructure, Thunell the IFC could be helpful for the government.
Thunell, a Swedish national, also focused on IFC's global operations. IFC has been increasing the amount it lends as a proportion of the World Bank's International Development Association lending, a vehicle used for soft loans to poor countries.
He said IFC's committed portfolio in Bangladesh stands at US$167 million in 13 projects, ranging from financial institutions to general manufacturing, telecommunications and infrastructure.
"Investments in our pipeline include a partial credit guarantee to BRAC that provides micro-finance and an investment package to the Bangladesh National School," said the IFC CEO, who was visiting Bangladesh for the first time.
He said, "We're also working on other investments in health care, infrastructure, financial markets and telecommunications."
IFC is also helping Bangladesh to promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs), he added.
Replying to a query on the proposed power plant at Bibiana for which IFC has prepared the bid documents, Thunell said implementation of the plant depends on the sponsor's capacity.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is also looking to expand its Global Trade Finance Programme in Bangladesh to help local banks grow their trade finance operations.
The programme provides access to a network of over 115 confirming banks, which allow local importers to reach other export markets.
IFC Country Manager Per Kjellerhaug was present among others.

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