Q: How is the Bangladeshi economy performing at the moment, and what is your outlook?

A: Bangladesh has been lucky throughout the crisis, but this year we are feeling the pinch. Our exports have fallen drastically. It’s not negative [growth], but our exports were growing at the rate of between 8% and 11%, and increased by 41% in 2010/11. Then it dropped off, and now has come down to only 3% or 4% growth. That affects us badly.

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We are number two in the world for exporting garments, rising above Turkey this year, and we think that we can become number one, despite the fact that we don’t produce any cotton. [Our strengths are] our labour, our labour capacity, and the sophistication of our investors.

Q: So is garment production a key sector for you for promoting foreign investment?

A: Yes, it remains a key sector, but there are other sectors for foreign investment. The pharmaceutical sector holds great possibilities. It is a new industry to us but we are already exporting to roughly 70 countries. Ship-building is also becoming very big in Bangladesh. We are exporting ships to Germany. We used to import from Germany and Denmark; now we are exporting to them.

We are also seeing people wanting to relocate to Bangladesh from China and Japan. We are restricted as we can’t spare too much land. The shortage of land for production in Bangladesh is a problem as we don’t have free land or open land. It is so densely populated. There is interest in [exporting] garments from China to Bangladesh. There is also interest in consumer durables, which we want to promote because of their value, and there is also interest in toys. These are the industries that want to locate in Bangladesh if we can give them land. We are trying on this score and we have selected several areas of the country which we would like to set apart for industrialisation. 

Q: How do you promote Bangladesh for investment and what improvements are you making in the investment environment?

A: Regarding the promotion of investment, we have done lots of roadshows, but they have not been helpful. One thing in Bangladesh that is attracting investment is our quality of labour: we have a cheap, skilled, trainable workforce. The second asset Bangladesh has is our infrastructure. We have been terribly deficient in power, but we will resolve this problem by 2016. The country's recent budgets should mean that by 2016 there will be no power problems. Even this year there is a good balance between demand and supply. 

Coal is almost a new industry in Bangladesh. We know of its detrimental effects on the environment, but we have little choice other than to mine it. What we want to do here is to ensure we have the best technology. In the modern environment there is coal technology, coal generation and power generation technology that can eliminate coal dust to a very reasonable extent.

We have also started exploration and we are trying to utilise renewable energy. We have about 55 megawatts [MW] of production now, mostly small units in rural areas, but we are hoping to generate another 250MW of power.

Q: What kind of renewable power?

A: It’s a combination of solar, wind and bio. Wind is not good in Bangladesh. We have a lot of wind, but our wind changes direction twice a year. It comes from a north-west direction and then from the south-east. Experts say that in those circumstances you cannot have reliable windmills, but that will not stop us from trying.