Bangladesh gradually becomes a preferred destination for Southeast Asian investors due to its cost competitiveness and a suitable geographical location, said a Singaporean minister yesterday.
“The world was defeated by the growth of China for more than half a decade. But the world today has decided ‘China plus one’ strategy,” said Zulkifli Masagos, Singapore’s senior minister of state for foreign and home affairs.
“Everyone is now looking beyond China for investment due to the rising production cost there, and Bangladesh could be such a place,” said Masagos.
He spoke at a meeting with the leaders of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) in Dhaka at the Chamber Building.
The “China plus one” strategy means that a company should invest not only in China but also in another country because the cost of production has gone up substantially in China.
The Japanese government adopted the strategy in 2008 to reduce the over-dependence on China.
So, the global companies are looking for an alternative destination, Masagos said, adding that Bangladesh will have preferences because of its cost competitiveness.
He arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on a six-day visit. The minister said more Singaporean businesspeople are keen to invest in Bangladesh and more business delegations will come here soon to explore new opportunities.
He said Singapore is the second largest trading partner of Bangladesh among the South Asian countries after India.
The two-way trade between Bangladesh and Singapore is heavily tilted in favour of the city-state. Bangladesh imported goods worth nearly $1.7 billion from Singapore, but exported only $179.23 million in fiscal 2011-12, said MCCI President Amjad Khan Chowdhury.
“Singapore is a role model in the entire world for successfully achieving excellence in the field of trade, commerce, industry, tourism, good governance, law and order, transport and housing development,” said Chowdhury.
He said Singapore could be a leading source of investment. In this regard, the government of Bangladesh has taken a number of policy measures in the economic front, especially for market reforms, deregulation and privatisation.
Singapore’s investors show a lot of interest, but this is not translated into reality, he said.
“Bangladesh as a least developed country has got duty- and quota-free access to the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. By investing in Bangladesh, the Singaporean investors can enjoy market access to these large and important markets,” said the MCCI president.
Several well-known multinational companies have been operating in Bangladesh for several years with investments worth more than $10 billion and providing employment opportunities directly and indirectly to more than four lakh people, said Chowdhury
Mahbubur Rahman, president of International Chamber of Commence, Bangladesh, stressed the need for more Singaporean investment in Bangladesh.
“We have good business with Indonesia and even Myanmar, but we couldn’t attract much investment from Singapore,” he added.
The noted businessman favoured simplification of procedures in setting up liaison office in Singapore to boost trade and commerce between the two counties.
Anjan Chowdhury, managing director of Square Consumer Products Ltd, said Bangladesh should develop human resources with the cooperation from Singapore.
Nehat Kabir, vice president of MCCI, said the Singaporean investors could explore investment opportunities in healthcare, education and real estate in Bangladesh.
Syed Farhad Ahmed, managing director of Aamra Technologies, urged the Singaporean companies to explore IT outsourcing potential in Bangladesh.
He said there is an immense potential in business process outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing as Bangladesh has a lot of skilled professionals in these areas.
Chan Heng Wing, High commissioner of Singapore, M Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI Ltd, and Salahuddin Kasem Khan, managing director of AK Khan & Company Ltd, were also present.
Photo Credit: The Daily Star / PMO