Bangladesh will hold a maiden meeting next week with Japanese entrepreneurs, donor agencies and investment facilitators to entice potential investors to relocate their businesses here during the post-Covid-19 regime.
State-run Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) will be hosting the virtual meeting aiming to bring in Japanese firms willing to shift their operations outside China, BIDA executive chairman Md Sirazul Islam told the FE on Thursday.
The government of Japan is willing to fund its companies to shift manufacturing operations outside China as the disruptions caused to production by the coronavirus pandemic has forced a rethink of supply chains between the major trading partners.
It has earmarked US$2.2 billion to help its manufacturers shift production outside China as part of its economic stimulus package.
Of the total amount, $2.0 billion, or 220 billion yen, has been allocated for the companies shifting production back to Japan and $200 million, or 23.5 billion yen, for those seeking to move production to other countries.
Business leaders and leading economists, however, stressed on prompt government steps to check the spread of novel coronavirus, immediate readiness of economic zones, improvement of the country's image and advancement in the 'ease of doing business index' to bag new opportunities of enticing foreign investments.
"We are already in talks with JICA, or Japan International Cooperation Agency, and JETRO, or Japan External Trade Organisation, to ensure fresh Japanese investments," said Mr Islam.
Japanese ambassador in Bangladesh, representatives of JICA and JETRO and a number of Japanese entrepreneurs will discuss the pros and cons to lure potential Japanese investment, he added.
Japan is a major development partner of Bangladesh and currently more than three dozen projects, mostly to improve infrastructures, are under implementation.
Matarbari deep seaport in Cox's Bazar, construction of the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, or HSIA, construction of a dedicated railway bridge over the Jamuna River, metro rail and bus rapid transport projects are the major infrastructure projects being implemented with JICA's assistance.
The BIDA executive chairman expressed the hope that growing investments from Japan in Bangladesh over the past several years will help bring in new Japanese entrepreneurs to invest here.
The number of Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh grew by nearly three times to around 300 over the past one decade from only around 80.
Mr Islam is also optimistic that under-construction Japanese Economic Zone, having 500 acres of land in Araihazar, will be able to accommodate new Japanese entrepreneurs.
More lands will also be available at under-construction Mirsarai Economic Zone for the Japanese investors, the BIDA top official hoped.
Separately, the country's apex trade body--the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FBCCI--also wrote letters to both the JICA and JETRO to explore scopes to lure Japanese firms to relocate their businesses to Bangladesh.
"We wrote letters to JICA and JETRO and following the developments to bag any scope to bring in new Japanese entrepreneurs here," FBCCI vice president Md Siddiqur Rahman told the FE.
He, however, stressed the need for stopping bureaucratic 'red-tapism,' and improving the environment of doing business in Bangladesh to achieve the benefits of post-Covid-19 opportunities.
"Entrepreneurs of Japan or any other countries will not wait for long to take decision on relocation of their businesses," Mr Rahman pointed out.
Favourable business indicators are also key to attract foreign investments, he added.
"This is a great opportunity but the major challenge lies ahead to entice Japanese investors to relocate their businesses here," said executive director of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, or PRI, Dr Ahsan H Mansur.
Efficient management to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus is the key to bring new investments to Bangladesh, he said.
"Before investment decision, the potential entrepreneurs will require to visit the country," he said, adding, "To ensure their safe visit, stemming the spread of the contagious coronavirus is important," he added.
The economic zones must be readied immediately to accommodate relocation of already running businesses, said Mr Mansur, also the chairman of BRAC Bank.
The world has been witnessing the relocation of businesses from China to many Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar etc over the past several years mostly because of the 'US-China trade war', he said.
Most of the Southeast Asian countries are highly competitive having their infrastructure developed, and huge lands to offer to the potential investors.
Most of these countries could successfully contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, he added.
Growing electricity and natural gas tariffs are also a major concern, said Mr Mansur.