17 days ago

Showcasing country's growth potential

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Situated at a strategic geographical location with a huge workforce, Bangladesh's real economic potential is yet to be fully exploited. Even so, it is already the second biggest economy in South Asia and 35th largest in the world in nominal terms. Now, the country is aiming to become an upper middle-income country by 2031 and a developed nation by 2041. It also has a host of talented business entrepreneurs who acted as a catalyst to take the economy forward to its present level. But to reach the benefit of growth to all segments of society, the current level of growth is not enough. The country needs more foreign investment, a wider window of opportunity for trade and commerce to lift the economy to the next level of what Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced on December 12 last year as a digitally 'Smart Bangladesh' by 2041. It is against this backdrop that last Saturday (March 11), she inaugurated the three-day mega business event, 'Bangladesh Business Summit-2023,' or summit, for short, to showcase the country's economic potential before a global audience.

The event that was to mark the 50th founding anniversary (Golden Jubilee) of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), the country's apex trade body, concluded on Monday (March 13) on a high note. In fact, with the signing of an agreement and three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) promising significant investments in port, sugar mill, national grid and fertilisers with Saudi Arabia, the minister of which along with the ministers of six other countries including the UK, China, Bhutan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined the business summit, the event was indeed a global one in scope. Touted as a 'signature event' for business branding and bonding by the FBCCI president, the summit presented the key sectors of the economy with a US$100 billion investment opportunity before more than 230 potential foreign investors who attended the summit.

Notably, the sectors include agriculture, food processing, software and IT-enabled services, health care, medical devices, automobiles, light engineering, shipbuilding and leather. If these sectors are able to attract foreign investments at the expected level, the country will be able to make it to its dream of becoming a trillion-dollar economy by 2040. However, that would require further development of the physical and other infrastructures with transportation cost in Bangladesh being the world's highest, uninterrupted supply of power and an ideal business environment. Talking of infrastructures, business leaders at the summit pointed to the urgency of framing integrated policies and creating public-private partnership (PPP) to turn Bangladesh into a thriving logistic hub.

If such facilities are in place, hopefully, the promise of a 'prolonged tie-up with Bangladesh' that the foreign entrepreneurs have made at the summit will be fulfilled. However, a critical contributor to a sustainable growth of the economy is the development of the nation's domestic natural resources including gas and coal. Also to ensure energy security, the government will be required to take urgent steps in this direction. Most importantly, the occasion has created an opportunity for investment dialogue to attract FDI, especially for export diversification and import substitution industries. Overall, the summit has been able to initiate a process of communication across the board from government to business as well as from business to business.

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