Non-resident Bangladeshi (NRB) engineers have shown little interest in investing in Bangladesh so far, despite a government initiative to encourage them to do so.
However, they have shown interest in consultancy projects in the country. In the nine months since the initiative was launched, the government has received only three investment and eight consultancy project proposals from the engineers.
An official of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said Bangladesh needs consultants in areas that have a shortage of local experts.
But the country needs investment the most, he said.
Letters seeking investment were sent to eight Bangladesh missions, including those in the US, the UK, France, Canada, and Australia, said the official.
Unfortunately, most of the responses were negative, saying that NRBs are not interested in investing in Bangladesh, said the official in frustration.
The ERD has so far received investment proposals for the Ayesha Women Learning Center in Manikganj, and a healthcare project named "Bangladesh Neonatal Surveillance for CQI".
One non-resident Bangladeshi has committed to invest in another project, but the project details have not been sent yet.
"We tried to set-up a database of NRBs to encourage them to invest in Bangladesh, but we did not get adequate cooperation from them," said the official.
"The Bangladesh High Commission in Australia in its response said that NRBs do not want to give personal information because of legal complications in their host country," he said. The Bangladesh embassy in the US also gave a similar response.
The government had earlier formed a forum named Bridge2Bangladesh to attract investment and build a relationship with NRB engineers.
It also arranged a conference of NRB engineers in Dhaka last February. At the conference, the government urged expatriate engineers to invest in Bangladesh and to contribute to the country's development.
The conference focused on improvements to the national transportation network, city planning and development with emphasis on an innovative city transportation system, smart city solutions, sustainable environment development and trade and multi-national initiatives, among other topics.
Engineers from around the world, including the US, the UK, the UAE, France, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Qatar, Sweden, and Singapore attended the conference.
The conference also tried to create professional communication between NRB engineers and technical people who work in the public and the private sectors in Bangladesh. But the NRB engineers did not respond as expected.
The government has also taken other initiatives to encourage the engineers to invest in Bangladesh. It recently organised seminars in New York and in some other cities as well.
Some Bangladesh missions abroad have opened NRB cells and have already appointed key people to convince engineers to invest in Bangladesh.
The government plans to open a cell and appoint people in all Bangladesh missions gradually. It also plans to set up NRB cells at international airports.
The process of setting-up a central NRB cell at the ERD is already underway, and the ERD has asked the Ministry of Public Administration to approve the appointment of four officials for the cell, said a source at the ERD.
ERD Secretary Monowar Ahmad told The Business Standard that the government intends to create a supportive environment for NRBs to invest in Bangladesh.
Here, the ERD is playing the role of connecting NRB investors to appropriate ministries and divisions, he said.
"We hope to create a huge potential for investment from NRBs. The investment will act as an alternative source of funding," he added.
The proposals the ERD has received so far are: The Engagement of Non-resident Bangladeshis in National Development, the Bangladesh Neonatal Morbidity and Mortality Surveillance unit, the Ayesha Women Learning Center, the National
Cultural Data Archive, the Prevention of Birth Defects and Associated Neonatal and Infant Mortality in Bangladesh, the Center for Innovation and Research in Nanotechnology, the NRB Tower, and the production of antiseptic and fragrance-free soap.
NRBs also submitted proposals for the preparation of single sized II-VI semiconductor nanocrystals, the National Vehicle Inspection and Certification System, and sharing knowledge and experience with Bangladesh universities.