- Bilateral trade increased more than 600 times in nearly 50 years
- Sought Korea is the fifth-largest FDI source country for Bangladesh with an accumulated FDI stock of over $1.3 billion
- Presently, more than 150 Korean companies have a significant presence in Bangladesh
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen sought South Korean assistance in improving the ease of doing business and timely project implementation in Bangladesh as the country lags behind in these indicators.
"In Bangladesh, whenever we start a project, apparently it never ends. I know an example where a project took 10 years but it was supposed to be finished in two years. In all our projects, there are delays and delays, causing extra expenditure," Momen said at a seminar on "50 Years of Korea-Bangladesh Relationship: Presentation of the Dhaka University Study."
Once the condition was also the same in Korea. However, the country made significant changes in project implementation by adopting some rules. Globally, it ranked the number one country in "completion of contracts", Momen said at the programme organised by "East Asia Study Centre" of the Dhaka University, Bangladesh foreign ministry and the South Korean embassy in Dhaka on Thursday at the Foreign Service Academy.
"In South Korea, they made rules that the project is a success story when it completes on time or before time and that individual irrespective of seniority would be given strategic position of promotion and also other incentives. If it delays, the involved official would be punished, would be demoted and even would be jailed," he added.
Even though Bangladesh's position on a global business regulation index by the World Bank improved, it still lags far behind other South Asian nations.
On the index based on the global lender's Doing Business 2020 study, Bangladesh jumped eight positions while India advanced 14 positions.
Among 190 countries measured in the study, Bangladesh ranks 168th while South Korea's position was 5th.
Indicating the matter, Momen said, "We only developed eight ranks in the ease of doing business indicator, but we need to do it much better. This is an area, let us know how South Korea can help us."
South Korea is one of the major trading partners of Bangladesh. It is the fifth-largest foreign direct investment (FDI) source country for Bangladesh with an accumulated FDI stock of over $1.3 billion.
The findings of a study presented at the event revealed that from a mere $3.31 million in 1973, the bilateral trade has surpassed $2 billion for the first time in 2021. This represents a more than 600 times increase in nearly 50 years.
"Although last decade had shown some downturns in overall trade relations, the first year of the current decade is indicative of the fact the trade relations are set to bounce back strongly," said Md Ali Siddiquee, an assistant professor the international relations at the University of Dhaka.
"Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of the South Korean soft loan as a priority partner country for official development assistance (ODA), and hope to remain a priority partner country even beyond our formal graduation to a developing country in 2026," said AK Abdul Momen.
He appreciated the South Korean government for preferential market access to Bangladeshi products covering 95% of tariff lines.
"We hope that the South Korean government would continue to extend preferential market access to our products even after 2026 so that bilateral trade may continue to grow with a favourable balance of trade between our two friendly countries," he said.
Momen also sought South Korea's extra initiative and proactive action for expediting Rohingya repatriation, noting that they have some leverages on Myanmar.
Presently, more than 150 Korean companies have a significant presence in Bangladesh.
At the seminar, South Korean Ambassador Lee Jang-keun said the current geopolitical situation, to some extent, is creating more opportunities than challenges for Bangladesh and South Korea for closer collaboration.
"Companies have realised the risks from geopolitical confrontations and the necessity of diversifying their investment and partners. In this situation, Bangladesh is increasingly becoming an attractive partner for Korean companies," he said.
The ambassador said Korea is becoming a more and more attractive partner of Bangladesh for reducing or avoiding the geopolitical risk.
Obviously, he said, the current geopolitical situation around the world is posing grave challenges to all, not only internationally but also regionally and bilaterally.
Lee Jang-keun said the consequent disruptions in the global supply chain have put many countries in difficulty including Korea and Bangladesh.
"We all have to cooperate together more than before to get over these unprecedented geopolitical challenges of today," he added.
Although the Korean companies started investing in Bangladesh in the early 1980s mainly in the textile and apparel sectors, Korean investors have now started investing in diverse sectors such as leather and leather products, consumer electronics, mobile phones, home appliances, automobiles, ICT and infrastructure.
Bangladesh Ambassador to South Korea Delwar Hossain virtually joined the programme chaired by Professor Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University.