UAE investors to inject $10bn in Bangladesh economic zones

Conference aimed at strengthening the flow of trade and investment between the two countries

Shehab Sumon: UAE-based investors have lined up several new projects including five free economic zones worth $10 billion in Bangladesh, the plans for which were discussed at the Bangladesh Economic Forum in Dubai on Sunday.

Salman F. Rahman, advisor to Bangladesh’s prime minister on private industry and investment, led a 20-member government delegation comprising officials from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority and Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority for the meeting in the UAE.

This was the first time representatives from all three agencies participated in the Bangladesh Economic Forum — a private sector initiative undertaken by UAE-based, non-resident Bangladeshi professionals and entrepreneurs.

More than 300 government officials, business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs participated in the day-long international investment conference, which is aimed at strengthening the flow of trade and investment between the UAE and Bangladesh.

Several UAE-based investors expressed interest in developing economic zones and hi-tech parks in Bangladesh.

“I am pleased to see strong and genuine interest among UAE-based investors — both UAE national and foreign business groups — in investing in Bangladesh,” Rahman said.

He added that Dhaka had seen heavy investments from China, Japan and the US, urging investors from Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to “take advantage of the lower cost of investment, operations and higher return on investment in Bangladesh.”

“Investment from the GCC and the Arab world will help us achieve a higher growth rate and we are more than ready to welcome them,” Rahman said.

Kamrul Hasan, commerce secretary of Bangladesh’s mission in the UAE, told Arab News that it was a very successful discussion. “Besides, the event created a very positive branding for Bangladesh” he added.

Experts welcomed the proposal, with Dr. Shamsul Alam, member of the country’s planning commission, saying that at this moment, it was the “most desirable thing for the country.”

“To attain the target of our sustainable development goals, we need to have at least $9 billion in investment every year until 2030,” Alam told Arab News.

“At present, Bangladesh has the most congenial policy regime — foreign investors are enjoying the opportunity of a 100 percent profit repatriation policy,” he added.

However, he said that to attract investment, the country was working on building 100 economic processing zones and 28 hi-tech parks by 2030, with plans in place to get 15 ready in the next five years.

Bangladesh’s economy grew at 7.9 percent in 2018. The country is on a growth overdrive and is expected to touch more than 8 percent in the next few years, making it the fastest growing economy in the world.

In order to sustain 8 percent plus gross domestic product growth, Bangladesh needs massive foreign and domestic investment which will create employment and ensure sustainable development.

The World Bank estimates Dhaka must spend as much as $10 billion a year by 2020 to bring its power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard in order to serve its growing population.

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