Bangladesh can become South Asia's economic hub: HPM Sheikh Hasina at India Economic Summit


Published on October 4, 2019
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Bangladesh has the capacity to become a regional economic hub owing to the country's geographic location, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.

She made the remarks while highlighting the country's economic growth and investment potential in her address to the India Economic Summit in New Delhi on Thursday.

Situated between eastern and north-east India, China and South-East Asia, Bangladesh merits attention of global and Indian businesses as a "seamless economic space", Hasina said.

"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 3 billion people."

Bangladesh's strengths lie in the strong societal values and peoples’ trust in the country, according to Hasina.

"Equally, peoples’ aspiration to progress and their resilience as well as their confidence in our leadership."

The prime minister landed in the Indian capital at 9:50 am (Indian standard time) on Thursday before attending the summit at the Taj Palace Hotel in the afternoon.

"My father, the Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, dreamt of a hunger-, poverty- and exploitation-free Golden Bangladesh. His vision gives us the confidence to move with our vision to develop Bangladesh as a developing country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041," said the country's premier.

"Last year, we exported 12 industrial robots to Korea. 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."

Emphasising the country's  liberal investment regime, Hasina said, "It is the time for global investors, particularly Indian entrepreneurs, to invest in Bangladesh in areas like education, light engineering, electronics, automotive industry, artificial Intelligence – beyond the conventional menu."

Citing the rapid urbanisation in the country, the prime minister said about 48% of Bangladesh's population will live in towns and cities, the majority of whom will be "young, energetic and digitally connected".

"In fact, this is already happening with over 110 million active internet subscribers in Bangladesh. By 2025, mobile internet penetration will reach 41% population. Rapid urbanisation fed by increasing consumption of electricity and over 30 million middle class is indeed a huge market."

Hasina also underscored the country's burgeoning economy, citing a record high GDP growth of 8.1 percent posted this year.

"We have challenges like many other countries do but we know how to transform challenges into opportunities. This year, our economy posted a record high growth of 8.1%. We are close to achieving double digit growth. Since 2009, Bangladesh economy has grown by 188% in size. Our Per Capita Income is around US$ 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.

In its transformation into a `digital Bangladesh’, said Hasina, the government has ensured 100% ICT access for people at the grassroots since 2009 as the country gears up for a cashless future.

"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 also stressed on the numerous avenues for investment in Bangladesh.

"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. Two zones are reserved for Indian investors. A number of High-Tech parks are also ready for technology and innovative enterprises."

Speaking at the summit, Salman F Rahman, the prime minister’s adviser for private sector development and investment, said Bangladesh has created conditions that are conducive to investment.