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Bangladesh should follow the model of Vietnam’s export policies: Economists and Business leaders

Nowadays, economists and business leaders have discussed the decision to choose Vietnam over Bangladesh for the investment of tech giant Samsung for various reasons.

However, in terms of exports and foreign investment, Vietnam was more or less similar to Bangladesh in the 1980s. But now Vietnam is far ahead of Bangladesh by achieving a lot.

Vietnam and Bangladesh
Figure: However, in terms of exports and foreign investment, Vietnam was more or less similar to Bangladesh in the 1980s. But now Vietnam is far ahead of Bangladesh by achieving a lot.

Experts believe that Vietnam’s success is due to its government’s export-friendly policies, liberal attitude towards attracting foreign investment, diversification of export products and markets, as well as increasing human resource development and joining forces with regional and global economic powers.

On Friday Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) participated at a webinar named “Vietnam’s superb export performance: What lessons might there be for Bangladesh”.

At the webinar he said, “We should focus more on governance. Despite making an EPZ in 1996, Bangladesh is yet to make a final agreement with YoungOne. They [YoungOne] held discussions to bring Samsung to Bangladesh, but their efforts failed. Samsung then chose Vietnam, and this move brought a revolution to the country’s electronic industry.”

Prof Rehman Sobhan also said, “We must figure out why Samsung settled for Vietnam despite initially showing interest towards Bangladesh. This move has influenced other investors as well. Why has no other large Korean company excluding YoungOne visited Bangladesh as yet?”

Also, Bangladesh is receiving duty free export facilities from various countries, including those from Europe. Vietnam is doing better than Bangladesh in this sector without this facility. We must review the reasons behind this phenomenon, he added.

At the same time, Professor Sobhan criticized Bangladesh’s existing policy of increasing exports and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), saying that Vietnam had taken advantage of many other opportunities that Bangladesh could not.

Meanwhile, economists and business leaders said Vietnam’s strong policy support has helped the country boost its exports and FDI, but Bangladesh could not achieve its desired success on such indicators despite having the potential to do so.

Then they added Bangladesh should if not fully, then partially follow the model Vietnam has been utilizing for the past three decades.

Presenting the keynote at the event organized by Policy Research Institute (PRI), its Vice Chairman Dr. Sadiq Ahmed showed how Vietnam achieved success in their export-oriented industries from tackling dependency on oil in the 1990s to diversifying their export goods.

“The country did not depend on just one sector, but utilized several ones. In comparison, Bangladesh’s 80% exports depend on just one sector,” Dr. Sadiq Ahmed added.

At the same time, experts have called for a complete overhaul of government policies to boost investment and trade, especially exports.

They want a strong, far-sighted and effective economic diplomacy to attract more foreign investment.

PRI Chairman Dr. Zaidi Sattar presided over the event, while Planning Minister MA Mannan participated as the chief guest.

President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) Rizwan Rahman said, “We do not want to lose any more companies like Samsung.”

Meanwhile, business leaders pointed out Bangladesh’s lack of an effective initiative to tackle its dependency on just one type of exports. There is a lot of talk on the issue, but nothing has been done as yet, they added.

In this regard Nihad Kabir, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said, “On paper, everything is excellent. But actually no one wants to ask what the investors are seeking, and why they are leaving. We instead say, why do we need FDI? The foreigners bring in little money, but take a lot out.”

Highlighting the challenges investors face in Bangladesh, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd Syed Nasim Manzur said, “The government has flip flopping policies. Sometimes it is yes and sometimes it is no.”

Besides that, the ease of doing business here suffers from issues, including with customs clearance, tariff rate and logistics.

But in Vietnam, a business can unload goods in 2/3 days, but in Bangladesh it takes 3/5 weeks.”

In the event, Planning Minister MA Mannan said, “For the past few years, it has become a trend here to compare everything with Vietnam. We have to remember that they are a one-party state.”

Along with that, we cannot compare them with Bangladesh’s politics. We do not have a lot of things in common with the country. But I assure you that I will consider your recommendations seriously, he added.

Rubana Haq, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer & Exporters Association (BGMEA); Dr. M Masrur Reaz, chairman of Policy Exchange of Bangladesh; Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of CPD; and Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, country economist of UNDP participated at the webinar among others.


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