President of Federation of Bangladesh
Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Abdul Matlub Ahmad
was recently in Delhi leading a 200 strong business delegation as part of Bangladesh
PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit. He tells Subhayan Chakraborty
that Bangladesh’s duty free trade access to 39 nations is a clear draw for Indian companies.
While the visit by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has seen significant investment agreements being inked, what is expected to push the Indian investment drive in Bangladesh forward?
I find that among Indian industry, interest in Bangladesh
is very high. And Bangladesh
is also not a poor business community anymore. A nice equation exists between both sides now. Investors are not only looking at the Bangladesh
market but 39 others nations as well including India, where goods can be exported duty free. So, the volume is much bigger and there are some Indian companies who can make much more money in Bangladesh
than they can in India.
But as compared to Indian companies, those from China are much ahead in Bangladesh, in terms of exports as well as investments. When do you see Indian companies catching up to their Chinese counterparts?
Although Chinese companies commit many things, end of the day, at the implementation stage we don’t see much except a few friendship bridges. So, on the industrial side, we must understand that India’s culture, India’s quality, India’s state of mind is much more similar to Bangladesh.
We are much more in sync on many things than China.
Apart from the energy sector, what would you say are the other sectors having potential for greater investment and trade?
I would say any industry which backs up garments, leather, fertiliser and other agro-based industries, processed foods, chemicals and FMCG products. We have given three Special Economic Zones solely to Indian investors, all administrative work on our side is done.
But on some of these sectors such as garments and leather, the two nations remain strong competitors on the global stage?
That’s why we are interested in investments in the backward linkages in these sectors. Also, the countries need not compete. We can join hands in a large number of areas, such as we are doing on Information Technology. We are no more competing, the new spirit is one of cooperation.
What are the challenges to growing bilateral economic ties?
The visa issue is a serious problem. When a Bangladeshi business person receives a visa from India, only a single port of entry is allowed. I have told the Indian government that you must give us any land port of entry we want. We on the other hand give Indian businessmen any land port of entry. The visa authorities say they have IT issues. Now, does it not sound funny when India says it has IT issues?