Experts have urged foreign investors to invest in Bangladesh's health sector, especially in active pharmaceuticals and equipment manufacturing.
Investors will get a tax waiver if they invest in the health sector, the experts said at a session styled "Health and Pharmaceuticals: Healthy leaving for all" as part of the Investment Summit at Hotel Radisson Blu in the capital on Sunday evening.
They said Bangladesh has done well in the pharmaceutical sector but in the case of active pharmaceutical ingredients and medical equipment, the situation is quite different. It has become more evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. Everything from pulse oximeters to high-flow nasal cannula had to be imported.
"We import 95% of pharmaceutical ingredients and more than 97% of medical devices," said Major General Mahbubur Rahman, director general at the Directorate General of Drug Administration.
"So we urge investment in this sector and also for high-tech medicine like anticancer drugs, insulin, and vaccines. Bangladesh has an investment-friendly environment."
Professor Dr Mohammod Shahidullah, president at the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council, said non-communicable diseases are on the rise due to an increase in life expectancy.
"So investors have to think of something new now. At present, we need to increase investment in molecular biological products. In addition, investments will have to be made in building specialised hospitals and creating manpower," he added.
"Why did we have to import pulse oximeters, high-flow nasal cannula, when we have so many mechanical engineers? If the investment is made in these products, then they can be exported abroad in the future. Investors need to pay attention to that."
In a presentation at the beginning of the session, Nazmul Hassan, president at the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI), said, "Bangladesh is nearly self-sufficient in pharmaceuticals and 98% of its demand is met by local production. Now Bangladeshi medicines are exported to more than 100 countries. The Bangladesh pharma industry market size is $3 billion."
"The demand is higher as the price of Bangladeshi medicines is lower than the foreign market. In the United States, the price of each vial of Remdesivir is $552.38, while in Bangladesh it is just $23.30."
Professor Jonaid Shafiq, managing director at the Japan Bangladesh Friendship Hospital, said the average life expectancy of the people of Bangladesh has increased and there is money for health care so foreign investors will benefit if they invest here. In addition, tax rebates can be obtained by investing in the health sector.
Professor Dr Ruhul Hoque, the chairperson of the event, said, "The health sector is 100% open for investment. Foreign investors can invest here in hospitals, manpower creation, medical device manufacturing. The government will provide all kinds of assistance to foreign investors."
Abdul Muktadir, senior vice-president at BAPI, presided over the function.