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NRBs urged to invest in economic zones

Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman Tuesday said non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) are massively investing their hard-earned money in many productive sectors in the country, belying the perception that they just spend their money for consumption and non-productive purposes.

Citing data, the central bank governor said an increased number of investment proposals is being made by NRBs nowadays in small, medium and even large industrial sectors. This proves that they are investing their hard-earned money in productive sectors, he said.

The governor was addressing as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the World Conference Series 2014 on ‘NRB Talent, Remittances and Investment for Development’ at a city hotel.

Former Bangladesh Bank governor Dr. Mohammad Farashuddin, former deputy governor Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, US Ambassador in Bangladesh Dan Mozena and European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna and conference partner Trust Bank Limited Managing Director Ishtiaq Ahmed Chowdhury were present at the function.

The Centre of Non-Resident Bangladeshis organised the event. Centre Chairman Shekil Ahmed presided over the programme. A number of representatives from different countries attended the programme.

The NRB Centre gave awards to 10 banks for highest remittance earning. These are Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited, Agrani Bank, Sonali Bank, Janata Bank, National Bank, Brac Bank, Pubali Bank, Prime Bank and City Bank.

The Centre also honoured Trust Bank, Islami Bank, Exim Bank, Dhaka Bank, AB Bank and the Bangladesh Knitwear and Manufacturers Exporters Association (BKMEA) for their contribution to development of the country.

Dr. Atiur Rahman said, “The NRBs are our national heroes. The Bangladesh Bank is ready to stretch all-out support for them.”

He urged the NRBs to get connected with the Economic Zones, to be set up in different parts of the country, for further investment saying the central bank will help them make their investment smoother and easier.

The governor that the NRBs’ investment in productive sectors like SMEs, banks, airlines, electricity generation and tourism resorts is boosting the country’s economy.

About the current investment trend, Mr Atiur said an investment mood is prevailing now as the country is now witnessing a period of peace after the political turmoil over the national election.

Mr Atiur said the central bank has taken various initiatives, including setting up of an online database for NRBs for improving working conditions and providing NRB-related information.

“For NRBs, this database helps promote and highlight  investment information, proper remittance channels and methods, important financial or economic moves of the government in which NRBs can participate,” he said.

He also urged the representatives of exchange houses to be vigilant so that the NRBs do not face any harassment in availing the banking services.

Mr Atiur mentioned that remittances in Bangladesh now stand around 10 per cent of the GDP, rising from 5.0 per cent in the beginning of 2000.

“Over the past four years (FY 2009-13), remittance inflows in Bangladesh have grown around 11.0 per cent on average, whereas in other Asian countries the growth was 7.1 per cent,” he said.

The BB governor said the inflows of remittance in FY 2012-13 were around US$ 14.46 billion, a 12.59 per cent growth creating a current account surplus for the last five years only in South Asia despite being a trade-deficit country.

“This demonstrates the inherent strength of our external sector and hence that of our currency. And one must give credit to the NRBs for attaining this strength,” said the central bank chief.

US Ambassador Dan Mozena said Bangladesh would be a mighty contributor to the huge flows of commerce along this 21st century trade route by turning the hub of the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor by utilising its geographical location.

“I will see a Bangladesh that uses its geographical gift to become the hub of the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, which will link Central and South Asia with China, Singapore and the world,” he said.

He said Bangladesh will be food self-sufficient, as the nation’s agricultural revolution continues. “I am proud that America is Bangladesh’s partner in this revolution that will enable the world’s most densely-populated country to feed itself.”

He, however, stressed the need for highest quality education and skills training, expanded ports, roads, railroads, more power, more energy supplies, less corruption and red tape that discourage investment. He identified secure working conditions and labour rights for workers, improved rule of law and greater political stability as challenges and constraints.

“These challenges and constraints are real, but each one can be overcome… Bangladesh is so lucky to have only challenges that can be resolved … Many countries are not so fortunate”, he pointed out.

“There’re so many ways – investing your money, sharing your expertise, introducing new technology and mentoring young entrepreneurs, among other ideas,” he said explaining how the NRBs can give back to Bangladesh.

European Union Head of Mission William Hannah said Bangladesh exports to EU countries just after China.

He promised that he would work for easier visa and immigration process for Bangladeshis in EU countries being requested by speakers at the programme.

Former Bangladesh Bank (BB) deputy governor Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled proposed formation of a forum led by the private sector to help channel remittances sent by the non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) into productive sectors through stock exchanges.

“We need a forum in Dhaka…it should be a corporate body which will attract money from abroad through remittances. I urge the business community to take the lead,” he said.

He said that this concept was ‘a little bit’ used in Bombay, India, probably with the involvement of the government.

Mr Khaled suggested that the government should not get involved in the process. “I don’t want to include government. Let the entrepreneurs do it.”

He said the hard-earned money of the NRBs is being invested in unproductive sectors like buying lands and flats. “We need to ensure that this money be invested in productive sectors.”

The FBCCI president said the NRBs should be encouraged to invest more in productive sectors instead of spending money on buying lands and flats.

Kazi Akram said, “We want to see the hard-earned money of the expatriate Bangladeshis invested in the productive sectors.”

The NRBs deserve more recognition of their contributions to the economy, Dr Khondkar Moazzem said adding that many unresolved issues regarding the interest of the expatriate Bangladeshis are yet to be resolved.

There is not much information on how much investment by NRBs has taken place so far, he said and suggested that Bangladesh should sign bilateral agreements with the countries for legal treatment of NRBs abroad.

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