KARACHI: Pakistani textile firms are continually establishing production units in Bangladesh owing to availability of better infrastructure, cheaper utility prices and attractive tax incentives.
“Businessmen from Pakistan have expressed keen interest in investing in Bangladesh. In fact, a Pakistani entity is about to make historic investment in Bangladesh,” revealed Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner Noor-e-Helal Saifur Rahman.
Speaking at a seminar titled “Talking Bangladesh Where Export and Investment Grow Better” on Tuesday, he pointed out that Soorty Enterprises invested $35 million by setting up a factory in Bangladesh more than five years ago. “The firm now employs 6,000 Bangladeshis,” he added.
“A new group, which we are not disclosing right now, is going to make an even bigger investment,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune on the sidelines of the seminar.
Giving a presentation, he said Bangladesh had planned to develop 100 economic zones nationwide over the next 15 years, which would create 10 million jobs and produce export-oriented goods worth $40 billion.
He underlined that Bangladesh had excellent macroeconomic stability characterised by a high growth rate of 8.13% recorded in 2018 and a satisfactory level of public debt. “It is an open and diverse economy with very cheap labour, almost three times cheaper than Pakistan,” he said. “The country has a strategic geographical position as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.”
He added that Bangladesh also enjoyed a strategic and competitive position in the value chain of the global economy and an economic and legislative environment favourable for business.
“We have invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to the upcoming D8 summit and hopefully he will attend the event,” said Saifur Rahman. “Relationships between Pakistan and Bangladesh are improving but still they are not as good as they should be.”
He added that keeping the ground realities in mind, the two countries should proceed slowly but soundly. He pointed out that a massive potential existed to enhance bilateral trade between the two nations.
Also speaking at the seminar, Bangladesh High Commissioner Tarik Ahsan said advancement in political relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh would help improve bilateral business ties.
“Balance of trade between the two countries is lopsided,” said the high commissioner.
According to latest data from the UN Comtrade, Pakistan’s exports to Bangladesh in 2018 were valued at $783.82 million. On the other hand, Pakistan’s imports amounted to $72 million in the same period.
“It is a rare equation for a country like Pakistan which is facing a chronic trade deficit,” said Arif Habib Commodities’ CEO and Managing Director Ahsan Mehanti while commenting on the trade figures.
In the first six months of current fiscal year 2019-20, Pakistan recorded a trade imbalance of $11.7 billion, down 32%, compared to the corresponding period of last year, when it faced a deficit of $16.8 billion.
“Bangladesh is no longer an agrarian economy,” he said. “It has evolved from producing only basic necessities to manufacturing value-added products.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2020.