International Investment Summit 2021, a Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) initiative, is aiming to draw foreign investments in 11 sectors including information technology, agriculture, and health. Ahead of the summit, which is slated to be held from 28-29 November, Abbas Uddin Noyon and Jahir Rayhan of The Business Standard spoke to Md Sirazul Islam, the Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida).
Readymade garments (RMG), electronics, leather, medicine and transport are some of the other sectors that will be showcased in the summit.
Who will participate?
We are organising the summit as part of the Mujib Year. Its main purpose is to present Bangladesh in the global arena. The goal behind arranging the conference is to inform about the economic and social progress we have made in the last 10 years. Simply put, our aim is to bring investment through branding our country to foreigners.
Foreign investors as well as local big entrepreneurs have been invited to the conference. We want to attract all kinds of new investments from both home and abroad by showing our potential.
In this year's summit, we are hoping to find many companies that invest in different countries. As of November 22, 1866 people have registered to take part in the conference. However, not all of them are foreigners. We have invited officials from various organisations including local entrepreneurs, agencies and partners. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the summit.
What can we expect to see in the summit?
Keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic we have designed a hybrid conference, where participants can attend both directly and virtually. We have identified 11 sectors and there will be a tactical session on these sectors. We will highlight issues including potentials, capacities and our incentives in these sectors to the investors.
The first day's plenary session will include a general session on Bangladesh's investment climate and investment prospects. On the same day, four sectors will be discussed in two parallel sessions. The next day, seven more sectors will be discussed in four sessions. We will conduct technical sessions on all 11 sectors. We believe that these discussions will give a lot more confidence to the investors.
There are some sectors, in which money alone is not enough without technology and expertise. We will also have a technical session on blue economy. At the summit we will get guidelines about expertise and technologies we will need to extract our huge resources from the Bay of Bengal.
We must adapt to the 4th Industrial Revolution that is forthcoming. We will have technical sessions on how IT, Industrial Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Cognitive Computing and Artificial Intelligence can be fully utilized.
Extent of communication efforts to ensure foreign companies' participation
We are trying our best to bring in foreign investors. We communicated through the virtual registration process as well as formal channels. We also contacted through foreign embassies. We also used our existing contacts database. KPMG, a global network of professional firms and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank, is working with us. As our consultants, they have given us contacts of more than one thousand investors and we mailed them. We also contacted foreign embassies, The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce (FBCCI), Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI), Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCCI), and other bilateral chambers. They, on their part, tried to convey the message through their members.
What facilities will you be offering the foreigners to attract investment?
We are first highlighting the benefits of investing in Bangladesh. Second, we have a stable political situation. Then we have strong leadership here. This is what we want to highlight. Our massive consumer base is a big incentive for the investors.
When it comes to foreign investment, there are a few challenges. Although there are some regulatory challenges, they are fewer than other countries. We have done a lot of reforms. Although the World Bank has stopped their 'Ease of Doing Business' program, we have not stopped our reform.
We have announced Sector-exclusive big Incentives. Talking with the National Board of Revenue, we were able to reduce corporate tax. In two years, the corporate tax for non-listed companies has been reduced by 5%. There are economic zones, export processing zones and hi-tech parks. These special zones are big incentives to attract foreign investments.
Why are private investments low despite the incentives and Bangladesh's achievements?
Our Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is much less than our economic growth or GDP. Before the pandemic hit, FDI was just over 1 percent of the GDP. However, in our 8th five-year-plan, the target is to improve the FDI to 3% of the GDP.
The reason for low investment is that our investment friendly environment is not properly promoted. Investors do not know that we have a large local market and manpower full of youth. There have been three or four road shows this year. We need to organise many more road shows, seminars and symposia.
Who are our target countries and investors in this summit?
We are primarily targeting the countries from which we received FDR. We have targeted 15 countries and regions such as the USA, UK, China, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Investment is coming from Japan, and Korea as well and we have also targeted these countries. We are expecting a lot more investors from Japan in the next five years. With the Japanese Economic Zone to be established there will be big investment there. In the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) we can allow any country to establish companies.
Foreigners place maximum importance on digital or one stop service for investment, what is Bida's plan in this regard?
Investors see how easily services are available before investing in a country. We have done a lot in this regard. Now we are providing Bida registration in one day. We are currently offering 16 services online. We will be able to move the rest of the 60 services online very soon.
There are 17 other companies working with Bida One Stop Services. Apart from government agencies, private sector chamber companies including DCCI, FICCI, FBCCI, CCI are also working.
Tell us about the success of past summits and your expectations for this year's conference?
Bida last held a conference in 2016. The outcome of previous conferences has been good as we are getting a lot of response for investment. I want to highlight Bangladesh through this summit. I would like to highlight that Bangladesh has immense potential for investment.
We do not expect that this investment conference will get us a big investment. Our goal is to try now to secure investments in the future. Through the process of the summit, we'll have updated contacts with the participants included. We plan on following up with them and encourage them to invest.