We must improve trade facilitation and investment capacity

03 November 2021

Media reports say foreign companies attending the Bangladesh Trade and Investment Summit 2021 have shown interest to invest $1.16 billion in different sectors of the economy. It appears it was a big gathering, if not quite a big investment offer in terms of expression of investment interest. But there is no doubt that it showcased Bangladesh as a growing market for investment in various sectors. Over 552 business-people, investors and top executives from 38 countries, including Bangladesh attended the summit that ended with new ideas about Bangladesh. Twenty companies from 13 countries showed interest to form joint ventures and 26 products were identified as having export potentials for markets abroad. Five countries showed interest to make direct investment in a number of sectors including infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, agro-food processing, and information technology, automobiles, power energy, dairy products and so on.
It needs no mention that Bangladesh was able to present itself in the summit as a country of huge potential to invest and showed its growing capacity for the first time to invest in countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The country is no doubt in the frontier of economic development in the region but its rate of growth could have been much higher had there been no massive corruption and money laundering. Tailor-made growth statistics are also misleading. The country is losing trillions annually in terms of capital flight as per various reports thus losing huge growth potentials by way of theft and misappropriation of public and private funds leaving most of our potentials untapped.
We need to be prompt and highly competitive to deal with trade facilitation and more FDI under a relatively open trade regime particularly after graduation from LDC and that needs capacity building along with adaptation to new technology. We must start working from now on for signing free and preferential trade agreements. That was the message from this summit. As the pandemic is slowing down the global economy is rebounding and we must start working to be on board. We can't miss the participants' recommendations for more infrastructure  development, policy reforms and such other trade facilitation measures to make doing business easier. In our view it requires taming corruption at high places and inefficiency at regulatory bodies.

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