A programme on ‘Vibrant Bangladesh: Transition from LDC Status’ was organised by World Trade Centre Mumbai and All India Association of Industries in association with the Deputy High Commission for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Mr. Mohd. Lutfor Rahman, Deputy High Commissioner, Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Mumbai said, “Bangladesh has developed in the last ten years owing to the pragmatic leadership policy of our Prime Minister, Ms. Sheikh Hasina and her Vision 2021 to graduate from LDC to lower middle-income status. On March 16, 2018, the UN Committee of Development Policy announced that Bangladesh is graduating from LDC status on the merit of meeting the three criteria based on Per Capita Income, Human Asset Index and Economic Vulnerability Index. The graduation threshold for GNP per capita is USD 1230 based on last three-year average, while that of Bangladesh is USD 1272, Human Asset Index is minimum 66, while that of Bangladesh is 72.8 and that of Economic Vulnerability Index is maximum 32, while that of Bangladesh is 25. It’s a landmark event for us and an occasion to celebrate”.
Further in his remarks, H. E. Mr. Rahman mentioned that “In 2009, Bangladesh exports stood at USD 13 billion, which has now increased to USD 35 billion. In 2009, FDI to Bangladesh stood at less than USD 1 billion, which has now grown to USD 2.3 billion. GDP has been growing at over seven per cent in the last three years. Poverty has decreased significantly from 44 per cent in 1991 to 13.8 per cent in 2016.
Maternal mortality has come down. Today, primary enrollment is more than 90 per cent with preference to girl child education. According to PwC, Bangladesh is today the 32nd largest economy in the world and will be the 23rd largest by 2050.
He further added “Graduation would generate a greater momentum in increasing our productive capacities for more diversification and production of higher value-added goods and services. Graduation would be an important steppingstone to our aspiration to become an advanced economy as envisioned in the ‘Vision 2041’. While there are challenges, new windows and opportunities will also be opened up for Bangladesh with this graduation process. An estimated 12.9 million additional jobs will be created by 2020 with around 1.3 million ICT professionals, along with 10,000 ICT entrepreneurs”.
Mrs. Chamari Rodrigo, Consul General, Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai addressed the gathering by congratulating Bangladesh on its achievements. In her speech she mentioned “Sri Lanka graduated from LDC to low middle-income status in 1997. It achieved this by investing in education, which is key to development. Over 90 per cent of the population of Sri Lanka has now access to education, which is very crucial to increasing productivity and girls should have equal access to education. Second important lesson is access to basic services. In 1997, about 65 per cent of the population had access to electricity, which has now increased to 90 per cent. Third important lesson is having a strong private sector. Sri Lanka opened its economy in 1978. Challenges to move to upper middle income status include weak institution, lack of infrastructure development and macro economic instability.
Dr. Norbert Revai Bere, Consul General, Consulate General of Hungary in Mumbai & Dean of Consular Corps in Mumbai suggested gender equality as being important for development. An economy is a part of an ecosystem and focusing on growth alone can fall apart. It is important to have sustainable development, which is only possible if development, wealth and natural resources are shared. Hungary was one of the first to adopt Gross National Happiness Index and the quality of life and environmental sustainability are key to development.
Mr. Mohammed Al Mamun, CEO, AB Bank in India shared his views on the ‘to do’ list of Bangladesh in the area of finance, banking and investment within 2024 which include focus on timely completion of infrastructural development projects to attract more FDI and development of financial markets for inviting free flow of funds internationally. He suggested that domestic bond market is to be developed as also there should be capital account convertibility.
Thereafter, there was a Panel Discussion on ‘Sustainable Development through Trade and Investment in Bangladesh’ where panelists shared their experiences on doing business in Bangladesh.
Moderator Dr. Siddhartha Roy, CEO, SR Associates presented an overview of Bangladesh’s economy. He opined that 80 per cent of Bangladesh exports are dependent on textiles. The industrial sector has to diversify. Bangladesh is establishing industrial parks and Export Processing Zones (EPZs) for attracting investments. Infrastructure and labour skills need to be developed. For logistic connectivity, currently to cover the distance between Kolkata to Agartala takes about 1500 kms, which can be cut down to 500 kms via Bangladesh, which will bring down logistic cost and transport time.
Panellist Mr. Mukesh Dave, Senior Manager (Marketing & Exports), GCMMF Ltd (Amul) said, “Sustainable development is at the heart of Amul. From an importer of dairy products, India has now become a net exporter. Amul is a vehicle for socioeconomic transformation of farmers, which is very crucial to Bangladesh. Bangladesh imports 10 per cent of its dairy requirements. We can work with cooperatives in Bangladesh to help them develop”.
Panellist Mr. N. Ravindranathan, Director, TEXPROCIL expressed his views that during early 1990s Bangladesh was mainly importing knitted fabrics from India for conversion into basic knitwear. From garmenting, investment has grown in dyeing, printing, knitting machines, weaving and spinning. Product diversification was given importance to manufacture high–end value-added apparel, denims and home textiles. Government policy in Bangladesh is encouraging domestic spinners. The way forward includes improvement of cross border infrastructure, harmonising customs procedures, activating a regional transport and transit system, among others.
Panellist Dr. Humayun Jafri, Head, Public Relations & CSR and International Patient Advisor, Tata Memorial Hospital said, “Economic progress has brought about prosperity in Bangladesh. More than 700-800 patients every year in Tata Memorial Hospital come from Bangladesh. Patients can register, submit reports on our NAVYA portal, and the team will respond within 24 hours. We also train doctors in Bangladesh and there is a lot of scope to start hospitals in Bangladesh”.
Panellist Mr. Mohit Dhanjal, Director Retail - Lifestyle Business, Raymond said, “We export branded textiles. We have presence in six out of eight divisions in Bangladesh, 28 exclusive stores and 150 other retail stores. We plan to double the number of outlets. As also we import finished goods from Bangladesh. 15 per cent of our volume is sourced from Bangladesh. Bangladesh offers many opportunities. However, challenges faced are high assessment valuation, high import duties, and meeting deadlines. There is a need for a more transparent and visible process”.
Panellist Mr. Vikramaditya Ugra, General Manger, EXIM Bank shared his perspective on the lines of credit from India to Bangladesh. Mr. Ugra said, “In the last decade, Government of India channelised diplomacy through lines of credit to developing countries via EXIM Bank. The transition came in 2010 with a line of credit of USD 1 billion to Bangladesh. It was offered for laying of railway lines, highway projects and transmission lines. It has increased to USD 4.5 billion on concessional terms and is used for IT Parks, medical colleges, solar power plants and solid waste management, apart from roads and railways. To promote India’s ‘Act East Policy’, we need good road linkage and maritime connectivity with Bangladesh through North East India. For the BIMSTEC region, Bangladesh is a crucial location for expanding intra–regional trade”.
Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries (AIAI) and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC World Trade Centre Mumbai remarked, “Bangladesh is growing at seven per cent and is the third fastest growing economy in the world. Indian manufacturers are happy to work in Bangladesh, as it is cost effective and has good working conditions, as also is home to a number of EPZs and easy to communicate over the border. It is at a motorable distance from India. However, for better logistic connectivity, we need to develop road and rail routes via Bangladesh, which will bring down the transport cost and time. The government of Bangladesh is focused on development and is proactive towards industrial growth. India supplies capital goods such as textile machinery to Bangladesh, encourages textile and leather exports from Bangladesh and partners in projects in the power generation and transmission sectors. We need regular interaction with small groups to promote trade through our South Asian FTA with Bangladesh.”
In Photo: Mr. Vijay Kalantri (middle) felicitating Mr. Mohd. Lutfor Rahman (left). Also present is Dr. Norbert Revai Bere.