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Top entrepreneurs ask commerce minister for initiatives to get businesses back on track

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Top business leaders, hit hard by months of political unrest, have sought government support to make up for their huge losses.

A delegation of around 200 businesspeople from different sectors made the call at a view-exchange meeting with the new commerce minister, Tofail Ahmed, at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital yesterday (22 January 2014).

They urged the government to provide them with financial incentives and policy support, as they go about rebuilding their businesses after a spate of political violence.

“2013 was an unlucky year for Bangladesh. We want to turn things around in 2014,??? said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Last year, the country lost 71 days to shutdowns and blockades, up from an average of 46 days a year since 1991.
Apex Group Chairman Syed Manzur Elahi said the country’s image has been severely damaged due to political turmoil over the last six months.

There has been a “credibility gap??? between foreign buyers and local exporters following negative reports on Bangladesh in the global media, especially in The New York Times.

The business leaders called for forming a special taskforce that would work to rebuild the nation’s image with a slogan “Bangladesh is back in business???.

“We have to sell our country first by improving the image and then our commodities,??? Elahi added.

More than Tk 1 lakh crore is lying idle in the banking sector, as political instability held entrepreneurs back from making new investments last year, said AK Azad, ex-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

He urged the government to immediately improve gas and power supply, complete the construction of two additional lanes on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway and reduce bank interest rates.

Latifur Rahman, chairman and chief executive officer of leading conglomerate Transcom Group, called for having a dedicated and toll-based Dhaka-Chittagong expressway to improve communications between the capital and the port city.

Suggesting an increased use of coal for power generation, he said the government should resolve gas and power crisis in industrial units.

Rokia Afzal Rahman, president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said there should be regular coordination meetings between the commerce ministry, National Board of Revenue, Bangladesh Bank and the finance ministry for implementing the decisions timely and effectively.

Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said goods worth Tk 5,000 crore had to be shipped by air between September and December last year for political unrest. “We have to make sure that this episode never repeats.???

“Bangladesh is now considered a model for businesses across the globe for its resilience and potential, but we are failing to make the best of it due to our domestic politics,??? said FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed.

He recommended boosting regional trade, particularly with India, since the South Asian nation is an important business partner of Bangladesh.

Former FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain proposed strengthening the Bangladesh cell of the World Trade Organisation and also Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute to enhance the government officials’ efficacy in making trade negotiations.
Saiful Islam, chairman of Western Marine Shipyards, demanded an equal distribution of export development funds between export-oriented sectors.

In response to the suggestions, the commerce minister said the government would set up an advisory committee comprised of businessmen, and it would hold regular meetings to solve business-related problems.

He said the government would do everything possible to promote the business sector.

Former FBCCI president Salman F Rahman, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association President AKM Salim Osman also spoke at the meeting.

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Source: Daily Star

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