Prime Minister's Adviser Salman F Rahman has emphasised preparation for the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia.
The Private Industry and Investment Adviser urged Bangladesh's business leaders to prepare themselves to face the challenges of the new normal after the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was addressing a virtual programme titled “Investment Opportunities in Bangladesh” organised by Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI).
Salman said the challenges poised to be created due to the world trade and investment scenario will be extremely tough.
He said their tax to GDP ratio is much lower compared to any other country in South Asia.
Salman said there is a need to widen the tax net and lower the tax rate in the upcoming plan of the Finance Ministry to balance and maintain the economic growth of the country.
He said digitalisation of around 135 OSS services will increase the tax collection rate which is another important agenda of the government.
Giving reference to the commerce secretary, Salman said the government is getting ready to sign FTA with 13 identified countries and Malaysia is currently on the top 4-5 countries in that list.
He expressed with positive vibes saying that this FTA will strengthen the bilateral trade relationship into a new height.
He has advised utilising all connections with the Malaysian business community and Bangladeshi diaspora who have been successfully doing business in Malaysia for more than two decades to initiate more trade exchange between the two countries.
Salman said the government is working closely on creating an investment-friendly environment and setting up new economic zones.
“It is true that we have come so far because of the leadership, wisdom, and vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She brought into us a belief in Bangladesh and feeling for Bangladesh as well.”
He said the Prime Minister is highly concentrating on new investment in Bangladesh and she has strongly asked to give the same level of importance for both foreign and domestic investors.
Salman said the most significant thing the Prime Minister did was reestablishing the true spirit of independence in the nation's psyche. “That is why today Bangladesh is where it is.”
Md Sirazul Islam, Executive Chairman, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), chaired the webinar.
He said Bangladesh is gradually becoming a preferred choice for investors.
The government is offering competitive investment incentives for investors.
Besides the post COVID landscape, Bangladesh can be a good option for the relocated or sunset industries, he said.
Malaysia is the 9th largest investing country in Bangladesh comprising FDI Stock of 806 million USD (Dec 2019) focusing on telecommunication and Computer Software and the IT sector.
BMCCI President Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul said the new age is differentiated by the speed of technological breakthroughs, the pervasiveness of scope and the tremendous impact of new systems.
He said economic growth has accelerated to 8.27 perecnt, and likely to accelerate further in the coming years.
Bangladesh is in the process of leveraging its strategic geographical location in the midst/confluence of India, China and ASEAN countries where Malaysia belongs.
The country is already befitting from increasing FDI and cross border flow of capital, and many more opportunities are opening up to establish Bangladesh as a global investment destination through investment facilitation in Special Economic Zones (SEZs), High-tech Parks; Power and RMG sectors and improved investment climate.
Acting High Commissioner of Malaysia Amir Farid Abu Hasan expressed his utmost appreciation and congratulated the government of Bangladesh, particularly the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and the Bangladesh-Malaysia Chambers of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) on successfully hosting this webinar series.
He said it is also the year that Malaysia and Bangladesh commemorate its 48 years of bilateral relations.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Malaysia-Bangladesh relations under the leadership of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, are getting stronger as the leaders continue to engage under the parameters of the new normal.
He said economic diplomacy continues to play a fundamental role in the bilateral relations of both countries.
"As an open economy, Malaysia is vulnerable to the changes in market sentiment, including the economies of its major trading partners."
Former BMCCI President Syed Nurul Islam pointed out that the lack of capacity is the main reason for the trade gap.
He said Bangladesh should be a human resource supply country instead of cheap labour supply one.
"We can’t reduce the trade gap just by exporting prawn, shrimp or ready-made garments to Malaysia," he added.
In 2019, trade between Malaysia and Bangladesh was recorded at around USD2.6 billion, an increase from the previous year’s record of USD 2.4 billion.
For a period from January to July 2020, despite the challenge of COVID-19, trade has lessened but remain robust.
Bangladesh was Malaysia’s 30th largest trading partners and ranked second among South Asian nations. Bangladesh is also Malaysia’s 20th largest export destination, signifying the growing importance of Bangladesh as a soaring economy.
Farooq Sobhan, former High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Malaysia and President, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, and Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, Vice President, BMCCI and Managing Director & CEO of Robi Axiata Limited were present.