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Better climate for foreign investment

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19th-May-2017       
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HIGH land prices, unavailability of land at suitable location and ransom taking are some of the major factors driving away prospective foreign investors as well as discouraging others to come and set up industries. This is a common allegation by foreign and local investors as we see hindering expansion of new business and particularly export industry when much of Bangladesh's development potentials remained underutilized to achieve faster growth.

Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Ma Mingqiang on Wednesday dwelt with the issue, particularly the difficulty in getting undisputed land by foreign investors. Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at a city hotel, he highlighted huge opportunities for investment here but there are difficulties as well, he said calling for improving investment climate and removing other barriers confronting foreign investors.

He pointed out that China is mainly interested in Bangladesh's infrastructure and export-oriented manufacturing sectors but high land price and ransom taking on land by local goons and influential groups are working as major impediment. We must say this is definitely a law and order issue when all such people are operating under the political shelter of the party in power - be it now or in the past. So the government must seriously weigh in the risk of losing foreign investment and business development when such people are exploiting the situation.

In fact major investors from Japan and other countries are facing similar setback and the Chinese envoy is right when he said low labour cost is the main attraction for foreign investors here, but one should not also forget that labour cost in Africa is much lower. China is set to become top investors in the country but in his view much of it depends on creating the investment climate.

There is no doubt, as we see political uncertainty is still overshadowing the horizon as the country is facing new Parliamentary Election in early 2019 without much change to earlier cause of political crisis. There is also infrastructure setback -- roads and highways must be improved, expansion of modern ports to be quick and supply of adequate gas and electricity must at hands to allow new mills and factories to go into production. The Chinese envoy has rightly echoed the sentiment of others when he said any delay in creating the right environment might force many investors to shift to other markets.

Bangladesh is setting up many economic zones for investors from home and abroad where they are expected to get land at reasonable cost. Moreover, many state-owned industries have vast unexploited land in their premises, which they can surrender to create new industrial estates. The government knows about it and yet vested interest groups within the government are blocking such move. We must say time is running out and the government must act quickly to remove bottleneck to local and foreign investments.


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