"Destination Bangladesh", an event organised by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) to mark 60th year of its birth last Sunday, held more than a commemorative significance. Actually, nostalgia has more of a literary use than being any nuance in business parlance; although granted it is a measure of the distance the DCCI has traversed and in the process matured as a chamber body.
So, we saw the event not passing off as a points-scoring discourse among experts, stakeholders and policymakers nor was it a merely note-exchanging experience between participants. If you look up close, you'll discover that there was some meat to the event. This has been something of a path-finder through the maze of oft-repeated unresolved or partially addressed issues to arrive at a clearing in conceptual terms.
The event's multiple sessions having been focused on brass tacks, it has delivered a 'potentially' coherent, practicable set of recommendations on investment, infrastructure development, human resource uplift and sustainable growth.
We feel a composite taskforce may be created to facilitate synthesis of the outputs, follow-up for enrichment, monitoring and coordination of progress or lack of it, in terms of adoption/implementation.
In fact, the business leaders and experts through their deliberations shared their recipes with the audience towards materialising 'the bright prospects'. Many of them argued that the principal role for Bangladesh having advanced thus far was played by cheap labour. In future though, we cannot hope to move ahead with low-cost labour; we shall need a whole range of other requisites: More productive workers, skilled workforce, infrastructure development at par with competing countries, improved business ecology, increased institutional capacity and good governance in trade and business .
The labour productivity in Bangladesh is one-sixth of a Chinese worker's output and half that of an Indian labour. In the matter of port handling, we have been notoriously sluggish vis-à-vis the South and Southeast Asian ports. These inadequacies need to be overcome under a strictly time-bound plan. Four-lane Dhaka-Chottagram Highway cannot carry the inward and outbound loads to and from Chottagram port. In that context, we will have to expedite the construction of Dhaka-Chottagram Expressway!
Apex chief Nasim Manzur stressed the need for a decisive move to garner FDI (foreign direct investment). For foreign direct investment comes with technology, expertise, knowledge and marketing strategies.
One-stop service, literally under the same roof, coupled with hassle-free visa-on-arrival for the potential investor must be ensured. It is also stressed that management of Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport will have to be improved radically to render services to travellers comparable with those of other airports in the region; maybe we should contemplate handing the management over to another institution.
Wendy Werner, Country Manager of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), said, "Given that Bangladesh's FDI flow is low compared to countries like India and Thailand, FDI is an area where we need to focus on."
Taking note of the huge infrastructure investment gap in Bangladesh, Dr. Selim Raihan, executive director of Sanem, maintained, "There should be a serious change in the mindset of the public sector so that they can team up with the private sector to fill the huge gap."
One couldn't agree more with him.
It can hardly be overemphasised that the quality of spending in infrastructure-building will have to be above board; otherwise quantity cannot be a substitute for it sans value addition.
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