State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Thursday urged Portugal to support Bangladesh’s bid for GSP+ facility beyond 2029 under EU’s new GSP Regulation. Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Dr Francisco André termed Bangladesh as the "best success story" for the EU’s Everything-but-Arms (EBA) scheme for LDCs, and assured of appropriate consideration for Bangladesh’s continued trade preferences in the European Union (EU) market. Bangladesh and Portugal held the 2nd Political Consultations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday evening. State Minister Shahriar Alam led the Bangladesh side while the Portuguese side was led by its Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. The State Minister recalled his last visit to Portugal earlier this year. He observed that while Bangladesh and Portugal enjoy a relationship that goes back more than 500 years, official interactions between the two governments in the recent times had remained low. Alam thanked the Portuguese State Secretary for following up on his commitment to visit Bangladesh to take the bilateral relations forward. The Portuguese State Secretary appreciated the Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s participation at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June 2022. He also acknowledged the valued contributions of the Bangladesh community in Portugal and assured of appropriate measures by his government in the next couple of years to address the consular related issues faced by the Bangladeshi expatriates. The two sides also agreed to cooperate on a permanent structure of a Shaheed Minar at a suitable location in Lisbon with a view to making the Bangladeshi community there feel more culturally integrated. Both sides stressed the need for enhanced interactions among business people to foster economic ties. The two countries reaffirmed their interest in concluding an agreement on avoidance of double taxation soon. The Portuguese State Secretary expressed interest in sharing know-how and investments in renewable energy, especially in offshore wind power generation. State Minister Alam welcomed the proposal and invited expertise for connecting off-grid solar power to the national grid in Bangladesh. Read more: Bangladesh, Portugal to sign MoU to establish direct shipping links The two sides also agreed to take forward the ongoing initiative at establishing direct shipping links between the interested ports. The two Ministers exchanged views on climate change issues, including the COP-27 agenda on loss and damage. The Bangladesh State Minister thanked Portugal for its principled support for climate justice for vulnerable countries.
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley on Tuesday said preparing for quick access to GSP Plus in the EU market is the next big factor for Bangladesh’s future economic development. The graduation from LDC status in 2026 would also mean graduation from the current Everything but Arms (EBA) unilateral trade preference given to Bangladesh by the EU, which is Bangladesh’s largest export destination. “The graduation would imply a substantial trade loss and serious shock to the country’s GDP, which could be mitigated through inclusion in the GSP+ arrangement,” said the EU envoy while speaking at a programme hosted by International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) at a city hotel. Read:Special economic zone not enough to attract best investors: US Envoy US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas, founding President of IBFB Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, Chairman of Policy Research Institute of Bnagladesh Dr Zaidi Sattar, IBFB President Humayun Rashid and its Vice President MS Siddiqui also spoke. Attracting foreign direct investment and technological know-hows would be key to reduce dependency on single basket RMG exports and move towards industrial diversification, said ambassador Whiteley. For this to happen, he said, a level playing field for both local and foreign sectors is necessary. “Addressing the woes of existing foreign investors is also important. We continue to engage with the government authorities in this area in our bilateral business dialogue.” Read BGMEA seeks 10-yr extension of GSP in Swiss market There are some quite stringent requirements for GSP Plus accession and the great thing is Bangladesh has already ratified the 32 conventions that are now required for GSP Plus membership, said ambassador Whiteley. “Now the next stage is implementation. This in particular refers to implementing the National Action Plan for the Labour Sector, which the Government has agreed with the EU,” he said.
Some seven sub-committees are preparing draft strategies with a time-bound action plan to meet the challenges of Bangladesh's LDC graduation. According to an official document,Bangladesh will be facing some challenges, such as loss of duty free – quota free access, unilateral, preferential market access, reduced scope for concessional or low interest funding from international and bilateral development partners, preference erosion, and strict compliance with stringent standards. The government has formed a committee under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office to prepare for the possible challenges that Bangladesh will face as a result of its graduation from a least developed country to a developing country. Also read: Bangladesh’s creditworthiness becomes high after graduation from LDC The document mentioned that there will be seven sub-committees under this committee. Each sub-committee has members from private sector stakeholders and development researchers. “These sub-committees are preparing draft strategies with a time-bound action plan to meet the challenges of LDC graduation,” it said. The document mentioned that the present government has adopted the policy of executing Bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) in the context of potential trade challenges arising from LDC graduation. Read Tax corporates at par with region to face challenges of LDC graduation: DCCI Strategies for Preferential Market Access and Trade Agreement have been formulated as ways to address these challenges. In this context, Bangladesh has signed the Preferential Bilateral Trade Agreement (PTA) with Bhutan, under which 34 products of Bhutan will be duty-free in the market of Bangladesh and 100 products of Bangladesh will be duty-free in the market of Bhutan. In addition, a prioritization list for the execution of PTA/FTA/CEPA with 13 potential trading countries/trade organizations such as India, China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, USA, Canada, Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN, and Mercosur has been prepared. Read EU assures continued trade benefits to Bangladesh after LDC graduation “A preliminary draft of the Regional Trade Agreement (RTA) Policy Guideline has been prepared with the aim of signing bilateral trade agreements with various countries,” the document said. In 2021, the United Nations made the final recommendation for the graduation of Bangladesh from the least developed country category for its progress in various socio-economic fields in recent years. LDC graduation is one of the important milestones that Bangladesh has achieved in its journey towards development. Read UK with Bangladesh in achieving smooth graduation: Dickson After graduation, Bangladesh’s participation in international trade and productivity in industrial production will rise to the next level fuelled by new-found zeal and confidence. The transition will improve the country’s credit rating, increase productive efficiency, and enhance our ability to compete globally, broadening our scope of export earnings. International financial institutions and credit rating agencies will evaluate Bangladesh more favourably after graduation. This will enhance our scope of attracting foreign funding both in the public and also in the private sector for investment and development financing purposes. Foreign direct investment will get a boost enabling new developments. Also read: Post-LDC Bangladesh: Pharmaceutical experts for amendment of Patent Act 2022 This will lead to massive development of infrastructure in the country, new job creation, and overall better living standards for the people of Bangladesh. As per the document, Bangladesh is pursuing hard at the WTO, along with other LDCs, to extend this exemption for some more years for the graduating countries. The loss of the LDC specific benefits will create an obligation for the country to increase its productive capacity and efficiency to compete in the export market, diversify our export basket and create new markets. Read BGMEA seeks UN support for smooth, sustainable LDC graduation Besides, this will both encourage and force the country to go for higher value added products. The document said that Bangladesh will have to utilise with farsightedness the period from 2022 to 2026 for our preparation to the graduation from Least Developed Countries so that Bangladesh can move forward even after graduation and sustain its position as a graduated country. To that end, it said, the ongoing development process must continue to ensure smooth graduation. “The Government of Bangladesh is fully committed to make this graduation smooth and sustainable. In this context, various policies, strategies, programs, and measures have been adopted.” Read Rebuilding Bangladesh: A resolute plan for resilient recovery According to the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDP) recommendation, Bangladesh's transition will be effective in 2026. It means until 2026, Bangladesh will be able to enjoy all these benefits applicable to LDCs. However, under the current rules, Bangladesh will be able to enjoy duty-free and quota-free market access for another three years, i.e. until 2029, into the EU market after completing its graduation in 2026. The UNCDP upon the request of the government has recommended that against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, the preparation period for the transition will be five years instead of three. During this period, that is, until 2026, all international facilities will continue. Read Capacity building needed for sustaining growth, tackling trade-related challenges The LDC Group of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has put forward a proposal to ensure that all trade facilities pertaining to LDCs remain in force for another 12 years after transition. Bangladesh has actively participated in this process, and is continuing its efforts to get this proposal accepted. The document said that the government has already taken steps to avail the advantage of GSP+ in EU countries after the graduation. Read Life after LDC graduation: BGMEA steps up economic diplomacy Moreover, the government has taken effective steps to improve its ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index to increase the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), although the index itself has been discontinued by the World Bank. The benefits of these steps are becoming evident, the document reads. The government is also in discussion with development partners, trade partners and relevant international organisations will continue to ensure that some important international facilities remain available even after the graduation. Read IMF keen to work closely for Bangladesh’s RMG sector’s development Training arrangements will be made for stakeholders to enhance their ability to deal with post-graduation situations. To develop human resources, steps will be taken to enhance efficiency as per the demand of the market at home and abroad. "Steps have been initiated to conduct sector-wise research activities on the opportunities created by Bangladesh's LDC graduation and what can be done to meet the challenges," the document reads. Read Plans afoot to transform Bangladesh’s economy in view of LDC graduation
Australia will continue to provide Bangladesh with duty-free access in its market after the country’s graduation from the LDC category. High Commissioner of Australia to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer informed BGMEA President Faruque Hassan about the Australian government’s decision when he paid a courtesy call on the envoy at the High Commission in Dhaka recently. BGMEA First Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam, Vice President Miran Ali, Directors Asif Ashraf, Barrister Vidiya Amrit Khan and Chair of BGMEA Standing Committee on Foreign Mission Cell Shams Mahmud accompanied the President during the visit. Read Bangladesh Missions in Australia, Denmark & Switzerland get new envoys Duncan McCullough, Second Secretary (Commercial and Economic Diplomacy) at the Australian High Commission in Dhaka was also present on the occasion. BGMEA President Faruque Hassan hailed the Australian government’s decision of continuing duty-free market access for Bangladesh, saying that it would support Bangladesh in maintaining the momentum of its economic growth after the LDC graduation. He hoped that the friendly support of Australian for the development of Bangladesh would continue in the coming years. Also read: Envoy urges BGMEA to consider setting up joint ventures in Egypt Different issues, especially potential areas of expanding trade and investment between Australia and Bangladesh were discussed at the meeting. They opined that huge opportunities lie ahead of both countries in reaping mutual trade benefits by further deepening collaboration and cooperation. The BGMEA leaders expressed Bangladesh’s interest in importing more cotton and wool from Australia to meet the growing demand of the RMG and textile industry. Also read: BGMEA seeks govt support in implementing RMG industry's sustainable dev vision They sought cooperation of Australia in developing knowledge and skills of the students of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) in textile, apparel, fashion, design and business through collaboration with leading Australian universities and fashion institutes.
Renowned economists and businesses opined that the Russia-Ukraine war, related supply crises, and LDC graduation would be the key challenges to the upcoming budget of the country. They said production disruptions, supply hindrances, and economic problems related to increasing import costs will have to be identified in the next budget. Speakers said these at ‘The Business Post’ roundtable discussion on ‘Economic Challenge and the Upcoming Budget for FY23’ held at the ‘Business Post’ auditorium on Saturday. Besides, internal economic capacity will have to be increased to face the global economic pressure. At a time, increasing government and private investment, creating employment opportunities, and boosting the social safety net along with other facilities need to be addressed in the upcoming budget of the next fiscal year, they said. A B Mirza Azizul Islam, former finance adviser, caretaker government, was present at the roundtable as the chief guest. The Business Post Editor Mohammad Golam Sarwar presided over the roundtable while its Executive Editor Nazmul Ahsan moderated the programme. In his speech, Mirza Azizul Islam said, “The main challenge of the budget is to control the inflation. The global unstable situation is the source of the present inflation. The fuel prices have soared due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While inflation creates because of global reasons, it would not be resisted by internal policy. In this case, the next budget should focus on how much safety they can provide to the affected. For this, social safety might be increased. However, needy people are always deprived of the facilities. Opportunists embezzle the social safety fund. This fund is also not adequate. That’s why; allocation in the social safety net should be increased in the next budget.” Pension should be dropped from the social safety net, he asserted. He said, every year, the size of the budget becomes small in the revised budget. The capacity of expenditure should be increased as Bangladesh expenses the lowest amount in South Asia. Mirza Azizul also raised the question about the size and number of the budget. The senior economist said the amount of expenditure will decrease if revenue does not increase. The tax-GDP ratio in Nepal and India is 22 percent while 15 percent in Pakistan. It should be increased by a 10 percent ratio in Bangladesh. The government gives pressure on those who submit tax returns regularly although half of the total TIN (Tax Identification Number) holders do not submit a tax return. It should also be investigated, he added. Mirza Azizul said at present the unemployment rate is more among the educated people. The upcoming budget should address the issue because the investment in the private sector remained stagnant in the last decade. In this case, funding and capital market problems should also be resolved. Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Research Director Khondokar Golam Muazzem said the supply chain system has been disrupted during the post-Covid period. At the same time, expenditure also increased. The economic impact is prevailing in the country for the hike of fuel and its supply due to the Russian-Ukraine war. At present, the challenge is the ‘balance of payment’. Export increased in the country but the cost of imports is higher than the export amount. Only remittance and foreign loans can level this ratio. The foreign exchange market will remain unstable in the upcoming days. The central bank should take logical measures to stabilize the money market. The price of the dollar is higher in the kerb market. If the central bank does not take action in this regard, remittance through hundi will be increased, he added. Former chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) Abdul Majid said, “We need to target a three-year rolling system. The ADP has implemented 45 percent in nine months, and the rest in three months. The next budget should have suggestions and the opportunity to introduce changes in this regard.” Also read: Debapriya wants more allocation for social safety in next national budget
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said Bangladesh needs enhanced investment from its friendly countries, especially from the USA, as it aspires to become a developed and prosperous country by 2041.“Bangladesh has been recommended to graduate from the LDC in 2026. We are aspiring to become a developed and prosperous country by 2041. For that purpose, we need enhanced investment from our friendly countries, especially from the USA,” she said.The prime minister said this at a meeting with the first-ever visiting Executive Business Delegation of the US-Bangladesh Business Council at her official residence Ganobhaban.She said that Bangladesh is now an attractive investment destination. Along with physical infrastructure, the government has upgraded and eased the rules and regulations relating to investment and business.“Bangladesh has the most liberal investment policy in South Asia and that foreign investment is protected by acts of Parliament and bilateral treaties,” she said. Also read: PM urges ADB to finance Bangladesh's Delta Plan 2100Highlighting her government's development programmes she mentioned that the entire country has recently been brought under electricity coverage.“We are upgrading our road, railway and water communications by implementing some mega projects,” she said.Hasina told the delegation that her government is setting up 100 special economic zones for domestic and foreign investors across the country.“We may earmark one of the zones exclusively for the US investors, if you desire so,” she said.She said that demographic dividend, and government’s focus on developing skilled manpower ensures that investors here get skilled human resources at competitive wages.The prime minister said that Bangladesh-US friendship is based on common values and shared interests and it is reflected in expanding overall business relations.“Our trade relations can be further strengthened with duty-free access and other trade privileges in the US market,” she said.In this regard she said Bangladesh is ready to commence Free Trade Agreement-FTA negotiations with the US at an appropriate time.She mentioned that export volume increased by more than USD 3 billion during the last five years. The export volume rose to USD 7.6 billion in 2021-22 from USD 5.8 billion in 2016-17.Since independence, she said, the US has been one of the trusted development partners and it is contributing to Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress. The USA is the single largest source of FDI and export market for Bangladesh.“I believe US companies will take the advantage and invest more in potential sectors like power and energy, ICT, infrastructure, light engineering products, mobile phone and electronic goods, automobile, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, among others.” Also read: Don’t go to foreigners with complaints: PM to labour leadersShe said that the government is pursuing a long-term growth strategy for its citizens which is sustainable as acknowledged by the global economists and organisations.Hasina said that the government has taken pledge to realise the “Golden Bangla’’, the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to turn Bangladesh into a poverty- and hunger-free prosperous country.“With such strong prospect, I would now assure you of the best possible policy framework to ease our business and investment climate," she told the delegation.She hoped that the US-Bangladesh Energy Taskforce which was launched in September 2021 will help advance energy cooperation between the stakeholders of both countries.“Likewise, the proposed US-Bangladesh Digital Economy Taskforce will contribute in deepening the cooperation of companies of both countries to ensure our sustainable development.”She hoped that the business delegation would be able to understand the congenial atmosphere and feel confident for their potential investment in Bangladesh.In this connection, she said that Bangladesh is now recognised for the state-of-the-art manufacturing factories in various sectors like RMG, leather, plastic, jute, ICT, agro-processing and many more.“It is our TIME now and please make your TIME taking opportunities of our conducive investment regime. I wish every success of the US-Bangladesh Business Council,” she said.Board Chair of US-Bangladesh Business Council Jay R. Pryor,Board members of the US-Bangladesh Business Council andbusiness executives from Bangladesh and US also spoke at the meeting.
Bangladesh’s graduation to lower middle income country from low income bracket has improved the credit worthiness of the country, according to an official document. This has also opened new windows for financing of Bangladesh development projects by the World Bank and other development partners with slightly higher interest rates, says the document obtained by UNB. In line with the Public Money and Budget Management Act, 2009, the government aims at minimizing interest costs and risks by choosing an appropriate borrowing mix. Also read: International solidarity key to achieving DPoA for LDCs: Bangladesh The document says Bangladesh's concessional financing facilities from bilateral and multilateral development partners has shrunk slightly in the recent past as the country elevated itself into the lower middle income status. The government has been pursuing a medium term deficit financing strategy to strike a balance between domestic and external source as interest rate of foreign loans is still cheaper than that of domestic loans despite some foreign exchange risk. Further, the document mentions, global interest rate is likely to remain reasonably low as the global economic recovery might be delayed due to the advent of new variants of COVID-19 amid supply shortage of vaccine doses across the globe. Therefore, deciding on an appropriate borrowing mix between external and domestic source is critical to reduce overall financing cost and slowing down accumulation of debt stock. As the government meets the major share of its financing requirements from domestic sources, appropriate borrowing mix between bank and non-bank financing is critical to reduce domestic debt servicing cost, and hence the overall financing cost. The official document says the government has been trying to reduce the share of nonbank financing in its domestic portfolio towards relatively cheaper bank financing by implementing several reform measures in the National Saving scheme, postal saving scheme, and the postal banking system. For instance, it says, NID-based national database is being used to sell NSCs to ensure that any individual cannot cross his maximum allowable limit of investment in NSCs and the source tax on interest income from NSCs was raised to 10 per cent from 5 per cent since fiscal 2019-20. Besides, the postal savings scheme and the postal banking system have also been automated to improve efficiency in government financing. Also read: Bangladesh to enjoy DFQF market access to Australia in post-LDC period To widen the scope for domestic financing the government has been taking various reform measures to increase the depth of the domestic bond market, the document adds. The government has introduced a Shariah-compliant bond called 'Sukuk' in fiscal 2020-21. The fund raised by the Sukuk will be invested in a large infrastructure project titled "Safe Water Supply for the Whole Country". The Shukuk could be a new frontier for financing large infrastructure projects by the government and thus, could reduce government's dependence on foreign finance which is not always easily accessible. It could also ease pressure on the domestic market as the government might reduce its dependence on traditional financing such as bank borrowing or nonbank borrowing by issuing NSC.
Bangladesh has underscored the need for "international solidarity and partnership" in achieving the concrete commitments and deliverables of the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) for the least developed countries (LDCs). Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, Ambassador Rabab Fatima, said these while addressing the first part of the 5th United Nations Conference on the LDCs (LDC5) in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York on Thursday. Ambassador Fatima, along with the Permanent Representative of Canada Ambassador Robert Rae, co-chaired the preparatory process of this conference. The General Assembly had earlier decided to hold the LDC5 conference in two parts. The second part will take place from 5th to 9th March, 2023, in Doha, according to a message received from New York. The first part of the conference has been organised to adopt the Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs -- a decade-long development roadmap for these countries. The second part will focus on other substantive issues, where heads of states and governments are expected to attend Speaking on behalf of the two co-chairs, Ambassador Fatima highlighted the unprecedented crisis created by the pandemic and uneven and inequitable responses to tackle it. READ: Bangladesh to enjoy DFQF market access to Australia in post-LDC period She commended the commitment and solidarity of the member states to adopt the DPoA, which provides an ambitious and well-defined action agenda for the LDCs and their development partners for the decade 2022-31. She requested everyone to support the follow-up and monitoring mechanism of the DPoA with due diligence for its successful implementation. The Ambassador also urged the international community and the development partners to remain deeply engaged with the LDCs during the entire cycle of the DPOA implementation. In this regard, she underscored the need for integrating the DPOA in the strategic plans and country programmes of the UN agencies, funds and programmes to ensure that the UN’s impact on the LDCs matches their needs and ground realities. At the outset of the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, was elected as the president of the LDC5 conference. Ambassador Fatima thanked him and Qatar for the leadership and support to host the 5th United Nations Conference on the LDCs. The meeting was also attended by Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi, as the global chair of the LDCs and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, among others.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Monday sought GSP support from Germany for Bangladesh to face the post-LDC challenges after its final graduation as a developing nation. He also urged the European country to increase mutual understanding between the two countries over the trade and business issues. The Commerce Minister made the call when German Ambassador to Bangladesh Achim Tröster met him at the Bangladesh Secretariat. Also read: National strategy soon for smooth graduation from LDC: PM Hasina Tipu urged Germany to allow the access of more Bangladeshi products to its market. He said since environment-friendly green factories have been set up and other necessary compliances are followed here, the production cost of goods went high in Bangladesh. The minister expects Germany to extend cooperation in giving fair prices of readymade garments from Bangladesh. He called on German entrepreneurs to invest in 100 economic zones and 33 hi-tech parks of Bangladesh. Also read: FBCCI preparing a master plan to face post-LDC challenges The German envoy praised the recent development in Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and said Germany would continue its assistance to Bangladesh in its development journey.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday said the government has taken a step to formulate a ‘National Smooth Transition Strategy’, aiming to make the graduation of Bangladesh from Least Developed Country (LDC) group to a developing one smoother. “To ensure a smoother graduation to a developing country, the process is on to formulate a National Smooth Transition Strategy. All kinds of directives have to be incorporated in the strategy to face the future challenges,” she said. The PM said this while addressing an official celebration programme marking the Graduation of Bangladesh from the LDC to a developing country. Also read:Maintain Covid precautions: PM Hasina