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BRI-related investments bring substantial benefits for Bangladesh

By Zhu Lingqing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-05 08:53

Bangladesh's presence in the Belt and Road Initiative has considerably expanded since 2016, said Sheikh Fazle Fahim, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

BRI-related projects in the South Asian country, which have reached a value of around $10 billion, are expected to create jobs, boost industrial development, contribute to gross domestic product growth, and make Bangladesh a more attractive destination for foreign investors, Fahim said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on Wednesday.

"For Bangladesh, BRI-related investment is spread across multiple sectors which will contribute to Bangladesh's rapid GDP growth, including infrastructure, connectivity and shipping," he added.

The $165 million Bangladesh Power System Upgrade and Expansion Project has benefited the country by helping provide electrical connections to more than 2.5 million rural people, significantly improving their lives, said Fahim.

In addition to infrastructure and manufacturing projects, the official said there is also great potential in the information and communication technology sectors as well as those yet to be tapped under the initiative.

"In the future, we could also focus on innovation-driven development with joint collaboration in the new generation of information technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, quantum information and biotechnology, in addition to the expansion of smart technologies including intelligent human computer interactions, industrial robots, smart factories and smart logistics," he said.

Fahim spoke highly of the economic cooperation between Bangladesh and China and said he believes it would become wider and deeper in the future.

China is Bangladesh's largest trading partner. Bangladesh has become China's second-largest trading partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade between the two countries having nearly quadrupled in the past 10 years to exceed $12 billion in the last fiscal year, the FBCCI said.

Around 400 Chinese companies are operating in Bangladesh in power, textiles, weaving, leather, footwear, construction, engineering and non-banking financial institutions, with a net investment of $1.03 billion in 2018, Fahim explained, adding that the number is gradually rising.

In addition, he said the cooperation between the two countries in finance and e-commerce is becoming increasingly active.

A consortium consisting of the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange acquired 25 percent of the shares of the Dhaka Stock Exchange last year.

Ant Finance has become the strategic partner to Bangladesh's biggest online payment company Bkash. And UnionPay International has cooperated with Mutual Trust Bank, a private commercial bank in Bangladesh, to jointly launch debit and credit cards with mobile payment services.

"It is encouraging. However, there is more to be done," Fahim said.

The official said that with China's further opening-up of its economy, the strongest sectors of Bangladesh such as leather, ICT and fast-moving consumer goods will have greater access to the huge Chinese market and this will boost the growth of Bangladeshi companies.

In fields such as the telecommunication and digital economy, the presence of Chinese companies and businesses in Bangladesh would grow substantially.

Fahim said the FBCCI will continue to play its role in helping Chinese investors in Bangladesh through policy advocacy and by providing services to make it easier to do business.

Video photographers & editors: Sun Weiwei and Wang Yuxi

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