Thursday, November 23, 2017

Changes in approach alters Japanese investors' outlook on Bangladesh

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2017-08-08 23:10:13 BdST


The Japanese investors' outlook on Bangladesh has been changed following the changes of the government’s approach to present the country to the world.

"Bangladesh was not in the list of top 20 destinations, but now the Japanese investors who operate in the region rank Bangladesh as the 13th preferable destination," Syed Nasim Manzur, a former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

“If Japanese investors come, others will follow,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday organised by the state-owned Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA).

The briefing followed the BIDA-organised Bangladesh-Japan business-to-business conference in Singapore on Aug 3-4 when a big delegation comprising both public and private sectors participated to showcase the country.

Thirty-eight Japanese as well as 24 Singaporean companies joined 55 Bangladeshi companies in the event.

BIDA Executive Chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said that "this showcasing was different than others."

“Usually we want what others can offer to us. This time we made the offer; we showed what we could offer to them,” he said.

Singapore is the economic hub for the big companies of the region. It is also the third largest financial centre. It usually ranks either number one or two in the World Bank’s 'ease of doing business' ranking.

BIDA organised the conference focusing the Japanese businesses who are active in the South Asia and Southeast Asian countries with their base office in Singapore for the region. They also met the Singapore business giants.

Both private and public sectors hailed the conference as a “success”. Other than relying on non-resident Bangladeshis, BIDA this time took local giants to the conference to present the country.

“This time we have seen a huge qualitative change in hosting such events,” Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear Limited, said.

He said the target was to lure the Japanese companies who are already present in the region. “They’ll think about Bangladesh. Those who did not come out of Japan yet, they will not think about Bangladesh”.

“It was compact, focused discussion. All were decision makers,” he said, adding that the presence of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) was heavily felt in the conference.

Among the South Asian countries, the presence of Japanese industries is fewer in Bangladesh.

Manzur said the conference served as a “first step” to remove the fear in Bangladesh following the July 1 terrorist attack in which seven Japanese were killed, among others.

Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Coordinator for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, said two Japanese investors are already in the city following the meeting.

He said they set up a Japan-Bangladesh Public Private Forum two years ago. “Last November, we could not hold a meeting in Dhaka due to July 1 Holey Artisan Café attack. So this time we took our products and offered to them”.

BIDA also found growing interest of Singaporean investors in Bangladesh.

As a next step of the conference, it says, they have decided to strengthen the partnership with the investors, facilitate Japanese foreign direct investments and economic zone.

They will also implement the 'doing business' reform actions set before by BIDA to secure a place below 100 of the World Bank’s 'ease of doing business' ranking by 2021.

Bangladesh is currently ranked 176th among 190 countries in the ranking.

The BIDA executive chairman said they also visited Nanyang University and had seen industrial development areas in Singapore.

“We learnt from their expertise,” he said, adding that soon they would sign a MoU with Singapore.

Apart from traditional bilateral businesses, he said, they would also focus on trilateral cooperation centring Singapore as the Southeast Asian country is the major business hub in the region.

President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce of Industry (DCCI) Abul Kasem Khan said Japan invested $20 billion in six ASEAN countries including Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, India and Vietnam as they are looking for new destinations to take their investments out of China.

He suggested engaging the private sector in all government’s policy making process and bodies to expedite the process of reforms.