Bangladesh wants to latch on to SL’s growth

Bangladeshi High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Mahbubuzzaman said Bangladesh would attempt to latch on to Sri Lanka’s economy given the potential for growth after the 30 year war.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Business for Peace Alliance on Monday, Mahbubuzzaman said he intended to form closer trading links with Sri Lanka.

"We are looking at how best Bangladesh could plug in to Sri Lanka’s development. We are looking at ways to linkup with this," he said.

"I am willing to work with local investors, the private sector and others and will also follow up on building our trade ties. Trade between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is below its potential and there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done," Mahbubuzzaman said.

A trade analyst said it would make sense for Sri Lanka to like wise approach Bangladesh with a trade pact.

"Bangladesh is emerging as a strong competitor to Sri Lanka in the garment trade because of the cost factor. We should try to turn threats into opportunities and find out how trade with Bangladesh can help Sri Lanka," he said.

A free trade area for the South Asian region had been mooted several years ago but regional politics and hard-nosed bureaucracies have prevented it from being a reality which led to bilateral agreements being signed between some of the member countries instead, such as the free trade agreements Sri Lanka has with both India and Pakistan.

The Business for Peace Alliance attempted to link the Sri Lankan Diaspora directly with small and medium enterprises in regions outside Colombo in a bid to counter regional disparities through a project called BizPact.

Ms. Susan Joachim who represented the Diaspora from Germany said that investors in the West where going through hard times and were looking for other destinations to invest their monies.

"Many of them are taking their investments to China and Bangladesh, so we should not make them hesitate in investing Sri Lanka," she said.

She said the public sector should be proactive in engaging both the Diaspora and other investors. Websites, she said need to be updated with relevant information so that those looking in will get information to make a good judgement.

"It is so hard to communicate with the government or the private sector in Sri Lanka. They don’t even answer emails. The tools are there, so don’t be shy to use them," Ms. Joachim said stressing the need to communicate and be vibrant.

"The 30-year war is over so what are we waiting for? Many people (outside Sri Lanka) still see the negative picture and we need to communicate the positives affectively," she said.

The visitors from the Diaspora said they would do all they can to promote Sri Lanka in their respective countries.

Product development, marketing, trade felicitation and compliance to health and quality standards were some of the areas in which regional chambers expected assistance from the Diaspora.

Regional businessmen on the other hand need to improve on their business acumen and communication skills.

The Diaspora said investments would flow in once regional businesses developed their capacities and state-sector bureaucratic red tape is reduced to a great extent, especially with regard to land rights.

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