New Delhi, Oct. 3 : Making a strong pitch for global investors, particularly Indian entrepreneurs to invest in Bangladesh, visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Thursday that her country is fast moving to a high-value, knowledge-intensive society, beyond apparel manufacturing.
Addressing the country strategy dialogue on Bangladesh at the World Economic Forum (WEF) India Economic Summit here, she told the global investors that it was time for them to invest in Bangladesh in areas like education, light engineering, electronics, automotive industry, artificial intelligence -- beyond the conventional menu.
Sheikh Hasina said that many see Bangladesh as ‘a market’ of over 30 million middle and affluent class population and a ‘development miracle’. “To me, our strengths are the societal values and peoples’ trust in Bangladesh. Equally, people aspiration to progress and their resilience as well as their confidence in our leadership,'' she said.
“Today, Bangladesh offers the most liberal investment regime in South Asia – in terms of legal protection of foreign investment, generous fiscal incentives, concession on machinery import, unrestricted exit policy, full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit, for example. We are establishing 100 Special Economic Zones, with one-stop service across Bangladesh. Twelve of the Zones are already functioning,'' she pointed out.
Turning to Indian investors, the Prime Minister said that two zones are reserved for Indian investors and a number of high-tech parks are also ready for technology and innovative enterprises. “In between Eastern and North-East India, China on the west and South-East Asia, Bangladesh merits attention of global and Indian business as a seamless economic space. We can serve as the economic hub for the sub-region.
Beyond our own 162 million people, Bangladesh can be the connecting landmass to a combined market of nearly three billion people,'' she said. She said that last year Bangladesh exported 12 industrial robots to Korea and four ships made in Bangladesh have come to India. “Recently, Reliance purchased large quantity of refrigerators made in Bangladesh. Bangladesh also has six lakhs IT freelancers – the largest freelancing community. These speak of a quiet transformation where people have taken risks and faced challenges by adopting to innovation and technology,'' she said.
Pointing out that Bangladesh is urbanizing fast and by 2030, about 48% of the population will live in towns and cities, Sheikh Hasina said that most of them will be young, energetic and digitally connected and will be receptive to new ideas and look for new ways of creating wealth. “In fact, this is already happening with over 110 million active internet subscribers in Bangladesh. By 2025, mobile internet penetration will reach 41% of the population. Rapid urbanization fed by increasing consumption of electricity and over 30 million middle class is indeed a huge market,'' she said.
Noting that this year Bangladesh economy posted a record high growth of 8.1%, she said the country is close to achieving double digit growth. Since 2009, Bangladesh economy has grown by 188% in size with its per capita income growing to around $ 2000. ``Our agriculture is no longer a subsistence one. Beyond self-sufficiency, we are now the 4th largest in rice production, 2nd in jute, 4th in mango, 5th in vegetable production and 4th in inland fisheries, in the world. We are decoding genome of key crops and fruits to move further,'' she said.
Referring to `Digital Bangladesh’ programme, Sheikh Hasina said that since 2009 the country has ensured 100% ICT access for people at the grassroots. “Our focus is to employ technology to solve common people’s developmental challenges. As a result, Bangladesh has the 5th largest internet user population in the Asia-Pacific. We are fast moving towards a cashless society. Last year, e-commerce transactions reached 260 million dollars,'' the Prime Minister disclosed.
She told the Summit that last year HSBC predicted that Bangladesh to be the 26th largest economy in the World, by 2030. Two things are key: one is our open society, religious harmony, liberal values, secular culture. Other is that two-thirds of our homogenous population is young – mostly under 25. They are fast skill-able, adaptive to technologies, ready to engage at competitive wages, she said.
“We are continuously learning in our journey to development with our confident people, able leadership and governance. Bangladesh offers you a stable and humanitarian state, where leadership is responsive and responsible. That is coupled with sound macroeconomic fundamentals, pragmatic and open economy shall continue to set global trends and examples of a peaceful and progressive nation,'' she said. (UNI)