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Monday, July 4, 2022

REPLICATE SINGAPORE MODEL AND BAG A SLICE OF JAPAN’S ASEAN INVESTMENT-BIDA CHALKS OUT SOME FORMIDABLE PLANS

Replicating the ‘Singapore Model’ in attaining economic prosperity is an aspiration for many developing and underdeveloped countries in the world.

Bangladesh is no different. Though in terms of population and size, there is a gulf of difference between the two but, experts concerned believe that countries like Bangladesh could actually get benefited by following the gist of Singapore model.

The high level delegation comprising of both Bangladesh government officials and business leaders who went to Singapore on a two day trip in August 3-4 think that, not just by following, rather tying up with Singapore government would help Bangladesh to bag more regional business as Singapore has become the center of economic activities in the region.

During a press conference on August 8 at a city hotel,the officials thus informed that to attract more foreigndirect investment (FDI) in Bangladesh, the government has made plan to create trilateral business partnership with other countries via Singapore.

Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Coordinator of SDG Affair of Prime Minister Office (PMO) said as Singapore is one of top business hubs and financial centres in the world and it is near to Bangladesh, a trilateral arrangement by keeping Singapore in the middle would pave the way for attracting investment from other countries.

“Singapore has also shown interest to form such partnership,” he said at the press conference organized by the Bangladesh Business Development Authority (BIDA) to discuss the outcome of the visit of a Bangladesh delegation to Singapore from August3-4.

Terming the trip highly successful,Azad said that the delegation in that trip was able to portray Bangladesh’s strength in forming business partnership with different entities from other countries. When asked whether any specific business deal was closed during the trip, Azad replied that the goal of the trip was not to strike deals with other business entities.

“Rather the main goal was to showcase the potentiality of Bangladesh so that large investment can be brought in.” “Countries like Singapore can aid Bangladesh on different business fronts. But on this trip, we were being able to show them that Bangladesh too can aid Singapore. There lies our success,” he said.

Rekindling business relation with japan

Another main objective of the Singapore trip was to take Bangladesh-Japan bilateral relationship into a new level.

After the Holey Artisan attack in which some Japanese nationalities were killed, the Japanese investors felt jittery in coming to Bangladesh.That’s why a major portion of our trip to meetings and conferences with Japanese businessmen who have offices in Singapore.

During the meeting with Japanese Delegation in Singapore, Bangladesh tried to fetch $2 billion or 10 percent share of $20 billion Japanese investment in ASEAN countries every year.

Japan is investing the amount annually over the past five years in the ASEAN countries — Singapore,Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,Philippines, and Vietnam.Bangladeshi private as well as public sectors was eyeing to grab a share of that investment since Japan has expressed its interest to engage in increased economic activities with Bangladesh chiefly because of its cheap labour.

Bangladeshi business delegation was comprised of 55 companies whereas the Japanese delegation was comprised of 38 companies. Nasim Manzur, former President of Metropolitan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and the Managing Director of Apex Footwear,who was a part of Bangladesh delegation said that after the Holey Artisan incident in where a number of Japanese were killed, the investors from Japan felt jittery about coming in to Bangladesh.

“This meeting with Japanese investors was primarily arranged to break that ice. We wanted to show them that the situation has changed in Bangladesh,” he said. Nasim said among all the SAARC countries, the investment from Japan is lowest in Bangladesh. But this situation is changing as this is for the first time Bangladesh has entered into Japan’s list of top 20 countries in Asia for ding business.

Bangladesh is now at number 13 position in that list prepared by Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO). “In two criteria — ‘easy to secure labour force’ and ‘reviewing production and distribution networks’– Bangladesh came out in the top position,” said Manzur.

In the latest survey that JETRO conducted in Asia and Oceania region, it found out that the diffusion index (DI) in 2017 the proportion of businesses reporting increased operating profits minus those reporting decreased operating profits compared to the previous year has increased by 50 points in Bangladesh,indicating a significant improvement in business confidence.

Also 66.7 percent Japanese firms that took part in the JETRO survey had opted for business expansion in Bangladesh. Nasim said that the JETRO survey shows that this is the right time to fetch more Japanese investments in Bangladesh. “This cannot be done overnight, but the process has already begun,” he said.

Abul Kashem Khan, President of Dhaka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and a Director of AK Khan and Co Ltd, one of the oldest business groups in the country, said the Japanese investors will not just come here because of Bangladesh’s cheap labour, there is a big emerging market in Bangladesh and that is an attraction for any investor.

“Competitive wages, low energy prices, cheap production and a large expanding market cost make Bangladesh one of the top investment destinations for Japanese companies,”said Khan, who too was a part of Bangladesh delegation in Singapore.

The DCCI President said that new opportunities of bagging Japanese investment have come in front of Bangladesh as Japan has been investing increasingly in the ASEAN and SAARC region. Initially, the surge of Japan’s FDI in Southeast Asia might have been a strategy of diversification, responding to the country’s earthquake disaster in 2011and the deterioration in Japan-China political relations in 2012, he said adding that the sustained rise in recent years, however, could reflect broader considerations.

“GDP growth in Bangladesh is currently running at about 6 percent,is almost on a par with that of China’s. So, that would be a big consideration for Japan to invest here,” said the DCCI President.

What BIDA said about the trip?

Speaking on the occasion, Kazi MAminul Islam, Executive Chairman of BIDA said that the trip had three-pronged objectives – firstly, to held a Bangladesh-Japan business-to-business (B2B)conference to promote bilateral business, secondly, to experience Singapore’s reform initiatives and networking with key policymaker sand lastly, to network with Singaporean investors to attract their investment in Bangladesh.

Aminul Islam said the Bangladesh government wants to learn from the experiences of Singapore to become a developed country. “Our aim is to make Bangladesh a developed country. Singapore provides good ideas and processes to that end as it has come out successful after passing long roads,” he said.

He said that Singapore is in number one position in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. “Bangladesh is currently in 178th position. This position is very important as the  country’s investment climate is presented to the world investors through it. Given its importance and as per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directive, BIDA is workingto make sure that the country holds a double-digit position in the index.”

For this, massive reform programmes has been taken within the organisation. Of them, 18 ministries,25 different organisations and the Supreme Court are helping us. “We want to improve in all the 10 criteria set for the ease of doing business index and for that reason we visited Singapore to learn firsthand about what they are doing right to be in the number one position,” Islam said.

He said the BIDA team along with a business delegation went to Singapore to observe and learn about its one-stop service system. “In BIDA,We are now providing clearance certificates related to foreign borrowing, import recommendation sand appointment of foreign employees under the one-stop service.

We wanted to see what other services we could bring into our ones by observing the Singapore’s one-stop service,” he said. He said investors will be able to receive all sorts of services together after the execution of One stop Service Act. “BIDA will be able to provide all types of one-stop services totally within the next six months.”

Aminul said that they also went to Singaporean Economic Development Board and learned how its skills development council works. The workings of the ‘IE’ agency that Singapore uses to promote investment also attracted the BIDA chairman.”We had meeting with them and now we are trying to form fruitful partnership with them to bring investment from Singapore using the agency.”■

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