Bangladesh and Qatar should look forward to enhancing diversified engagements in trade considering Bangladesh's highly potential investment ecosystem, said Sheikh Fazle Fahim, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI).
"We hope potential investors from Qatar would continue to consider Bangladesh's investment potential in energy, power, infrastructure, technology, halal ecosystem, green renewable energy and start-ups for complimentary cooperation," said Fahim.
He was speaking at a webinar titled "Bilateral and Synergistic Opportunities between Qatar and Bangladesh" jointly organised by Bangladesh Forum Qatar and Doha Bank on August 19, read a press release.
Fahim said, "Bangladesh has a vibrant domestic market of 160 million. Through the multilateral South Asia Free Trade Agreement, we have market access of 1.8 billion in South Asia Association Regional Cooperation.
"Everything but arms has duty-free and quota-free market access to the European Union, India, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia Pacific Trade Agreement and preferential access to a number of additional markets with a competitive edge in production."
Mentioning the two countries' longstanding relationship and engagements in service, energy partnership, and human development, he opined that there is room for a reasonable balance of trade expansion for diversifying trades such as export of fast-moving consumer goods, agro-processed goods, leather, footwear, pharmaceuticals, ceramics and ICT.
He highlighted Bangladesh's Ministry of Finance's policy interventions to address Covid-19 pandemic by prioritising government expenditure due to a downward trend in economic activity, measures to increase money circulation, social safety net programmes such as food aid to 45 million people and cash transfer to 5 million families.
The FBCCI president also upheld the Bangladesh Bank measures of quantitative easing to increase liquidity in the banking sector, 1 percent interest rate waivers for two months on all loans, deferment of all loan payments without penalty till September.
"This year, as the second level of intervention, all income taxes were reduced in the national budget including corporate tax reduction of 2.5 percent. A combination of all these measures spearheaded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we believe, will allow us to sustain the rest of this year and recover in 2021 and 2022," he added.
Emphasising the prospect of investment in Bangladesh, he said despite the pandemic, in fiscal year 2020 Bangladesh managed GDP growth of 5.2 percent, 5.4 percent growth in remittance, and 10 percent growth in foreign reserve.
"For most of the multinational companies operating in Bangladesh, it is among their top five performing operations in the world. Qatar sovereign fund management knowledge transfer, private sector long term project financing, trade financing at low-interest rates, foreign direct investment in diverse sectors, innovation, academia, institutional engagement with FBCCI may be explored as bilateral value chain initiative (BVCI) for Bangladesh market, export to Qatar, GCC and beyond," Fahim said.
Naser Ezaz Bijoy, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh, stated that the investment potential in Bangladesh is the best-kept secret of Asia.
He highlighted six drivers of Bangladesh's economic growth: apparel industry, commerce, remittance, power generation, infrastructure, and digital space.
Bijoy said, in the last 12 years, Bangladesh had delivered a 400 percent growth, added the press release.
"Investment in government bonds is an opportunity because yields are much better in Bangladesh as the currency is quite stable. Capital market, where Qatar is quite liquid, Qatari banks and other financial institutions can invest," he said, adding that a double taxation awareness treaty would help Qatari investors get maximum benefit.
Ashud Ahmed, Bangladesh ambassador to Qatar, who also took part in the webinar, said the relation between Bangladesh and Qatar is traditionally based on labours.
"The Bangladesh government has been providing excellent facilities and incentives for the prospective investors from various countries of the world, and Qatar can look into Bangladesh. Bangladesh itself is a big market and the bridge between South Asia and South-East Asia," he added.
He said the authorities concerned of both the countries sat in several discussions to diversify the relation, keeping the labour trade intact.
Dr R Seetharaman, chief executive officer of Doha Bank, said while addressing the webinar, "We have an investment profile in terms of exchange and refunds, and institutions can invest similarly. We are also going to explore now in liquid investments in Bangladesh."
He also called upon Bangladeshi companies to set up infrastructures in Qatar and create a global gateway from Qatar industrial zones and free zones.
Ajay Kumar Sarker, chief representative of Doha Bank Bangladesh Representative Office, passed the closing remarks of the programme, while Bangladesh Forum Qatar Vice-President Jafar Ali Al-Saraf, also VP of Gulf Exchange, presided over the event.