New Delhi: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday asked the business community in India to invest in Bangladesh, saying that her country offers a conducive environment and sustainable development.
"We also want to see trade and investment together where Indian big investors can set up industries in Bangladesh to the southeast Asian countries taking advantage of the improved connectivity between us," she said while addressing a business meeting jointly organised by business chambers ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI here.
"The trade and investment between our two countries are increasing and volume of bilateral trade has steadily grown during the past years. The balance of trade, however, is still largely in India's favour. The volume of trade between two countries is nearly $10 billion. In 2018, Bangladesh was India's eighth largest export destination with $8.8 billion export and our export to India also crossed $1 billion mark for the first time last year. So, the progress is visible, but there is lot of scope for further deepening our relations in the area of trade and investment," Sheikh Hasina said.
Noting Bangladesh has achieved remarkable economic progress in the last decade, often recognized as "development model", she said her country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is the second-largest garment exporter, third-largest inland fish producer, fourth-largest freshwater fish producer, fourth-largest rice producer and eighth-largest remittance earning country, she said, adding: "If all these positive trends continue, we expect eventually to implement our Vision to make Bangladesh a developed country by 2041."
She said that "a few statistics would further highlight strength of our economy", citing how inflation has been reduced to 5.4 per cent, per capita income grew 3.5 times to around $2,000 in 2019 from $ 543 in 2006, foreign currency reserve rose to $33 billion, and exports grew three-fold from 2005-06 to reach $40.53 billion in 2018-2019.
"With a large population, young people mostly under the age of 25 are ready to be engaged at very competitive wages. Rapid urbanisation fed by increasing consumption of electricity and burgeoning growth of middle class indicates the market potential in Bangladesh for investors.
"We are in the process of establishing 100 Special Economic Zones. About a dozen of them are ready with four allotments to three countries. A number of high-tech parks are also ready for technology and innovative enterprises. Bangladesh has offered three Special Economic Zones for Indian investors at Mongla, Bheramara and Mirsarai. Substantial investment from Indian investors in these three Indian Economic Zones in Bangladesh would help broaden our exportable base," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said that persistent growth of global FDI in Bangladesh since her government took over in 2009 reflects the increasing confidence of the foreign investment in Bangladesh, and its strategic location provides tremendous potential for being the economic hub of the region.
"With India on the west, China on the north and Southeast Asia on the east, Bangladesh is in the middle of a combined market of 4 billion people," she said.
India's Commerce and Industry and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said: "India stands committed to every request that Bangladesh will make on the railway sector. I would like to see in the very near future, an end-to-end connectivity with Bangladesh and can look at a seamless corridor which can help enable people and goods movement from either side."
"There is a great chemistry between our two leaders and the people, and we would now like to see the same engagement in the business communities and this visit will be the harbinger of better times to come. All of our cultural and sporting ties will help the engagement going forward and follow the path shown by both our founding fathers, Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," he said.
"Our ties of neighbours should go beyond ties of friends, it should be ties of brotherhood, ties of oneness, and the ties of one family working for a better future. Bangladesh's vision to make it a developed nation by 2041 is truly very encouraging and India would like to be a part of the growth story," Goyal added.
ASSOCHAM President B.K. Goenka said that Bangladesh is India's biggest trade partner in South Asia. "Over the last 10 years, India and Bangladesh have made unprecedented progress in furthering bilateral ties and moving towards building a multi-faceted relationship, which today covers cooperation in a wide range of areas, including security and border management, trade and investment, connectivity, energy and power, space, development projects, culture, and greater people-to-people exchange.
"India being its oldest ally and the closest neighbour enjoys growing trend in bilateral relationship with Bangladesh. Total bilateral trade between both the countries stands at $10.46 billion in year 2018-19, rising by 28 per cent as compared to previous year," he said.
CII President Vikram Kirloskar said that India is a committed development partner of Bangladesh, and has extended $8 billion in concessional financing to Bangladesh under three Lines of Credit, and the projects covered under these will help improve infrastructure in Bangladesh in sectors like ports, power, railways, roads and airports.
"There is need for greater cooperation in the energy sector, in building roads, railways, ports and inland waterways and in using such connectivity for mutual benefit. This will create jobs, reduce costs and enhance mobility for both countries. There is a need to work together to leverage India's experience with Digital India to provide a boost to Digital Bangladesh. India experience in rolling out the digital services to remote and rural areas can help Bangladesh in its mission to provide the same services to its own citizens," Kirloskar said.
FICCI President Sandip Somany highlighted five areas that will create new vision for our strategic partnership - collaboration in knowledge-sharing to facilitate innovation and research, partnership on skill development, connectivity, tourism and entertainment.
"There is a strong need for joint investments and roadmap for cooperation in Bay of Bengal to explore potential of the 'Blue Economy'," he added.