Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the global investors, particularly the Indian entrepreneurs, to invest in non-conventional potential areas.

"It's time for global investors, particularly the Indian entrepreneurs, to invest in Bangladesh in areas like education, light-engineering, electronics, automotive industry, artificial Intelligence -- beyond the conventional menu," she said.

The Prime Minister made the call while addressing as the chief guest at the Country Strategy Dialogue (CSD) on Bangladesh at the India Economic Summit 2019 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Hotel Taj Palace in the capital city of India on October 3.

Hasina said Bangladesh is moving fast to a high-value, knowledge-intensive society, beyond apparel manufacturing.

Last year, she said, Bangladesh exported 12 industrial robots to Korea while four ships made in Bangladesh have come to India.

Recently, Reliance purchased a large quantity of refrigerators made in Bangladesh and Bangladesh also has six lakhs of IT freelancers - the largest freelancing community, Hasina said.

"Today, Bangladesh offers the most liberal investment regime in South Asia - in terms of legal protection of foreign investment, generous fiscal incentives, concession on machinery import, unrestricted exit policy, full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit, for example," Hasina said adding Bangladesh is establishing 100 Special Economic Zones, with one-stop service across the country.

She said 12 such Zones are already functioning while two are reserved for Indian investors.

A number of High-Tech parks are also ready for technology and innovative enterprises, the Prime Minister mentioned.

In between Eastern and North-East India, China on the west and South-East Asia, Bangladesh deserves the attention of global and Indian business as a seamless economic space, said Hasina.

"We can serve as the economic hub for the sub-region. Beyond our own 162 million people, Bangladesh can be the connecting landmass to a combined market of nearly 3 billion people," she said.

Last year, the Prime Minister said, HSBC predicted that Bangladesh will be the 26th largest economy in the World by 2030.

She said two things are key -- open society (in Bangladesh), religious harmony, liberal values, secular culture and the other is that two-thirds of its homogenous population is young - mostly under 25.

They are fast skill-able, adaptive to technologies, ready to engage in competitive wages, Hasina said.

"Many see Bangladesh as 'a market' of over 30 million middle- and affluent-class population and a 'development miracle'. To me, our strengths are the societal values and people's trust in Bangladesh. Equally, people's aspiration to progress and their resilience as well as their confidence in our leadership," she said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh is urbanising fast and by 2030, about 48 percent of our population will live in towns and cities.

"Most of them will be young, energetic and digitally connected. They will be agile, receptive to new ideas and look for new ways of creating wealth," she said.

In fact, Hasina said, this is already happening with over 110 million active internet subscribers in Bangladesh. By 2025, mobile internet penetration will reach 41 percent population.

"Rapid urbanisation fed by increasing consumption of electricity and over a 30-million middle class is indeed a huge market," she said.

"We've challenges like many other countries but we know how to transform challenges into opportunities," the Prime Minister said.

This year, the economy of Bangladesh posted a record high growth of 8.1 percent in the last fiscal year.

"We're close to achieving double digit growth. Since 2009, Bangladesh economy has grown by 188 percent in size. Our per capita income is around US$ 2000," she said.

Hasina said agriculture is no longer a subsistence one in Bangladesh. "Beyond self-sufficiency, we're now the 4th largest in rice production, 2nd in jute, 4th in mango, 5th in vegetable production and 4th in inland fisheries, in the world. We're decoding genome of key crops and fruits to move further."

In transforming the country into a `Digital Bangladesh' since 2009, Bangladesh have ensured 100 percent ICT access for people at the grassroots, she said adding that her government's focus is to employ technology to solve common people's developmental challenges.

"As a result, Bangladesh has the 5th largest internet user population in the Asia-Pacific. We're moving fast towards a cashless society. Last year, e-commerce transactions reached 260 million dollars," she said.

Hasina said Bangladesh is continuously learning in its journey to development with its confident people, able leadership and governance. Bangladesh offers you a stable and humanitarian state, where leadership is responsive and responsible.

That is coupled with sound macro-economic fundamentals, pragmatic and open economy shall continue to set global trends and examples of a peaceful and progressive nation, she said.

PM's Private Industry and Investment adviser Salman F Rahman depicted the investment-friendly climate prevailing in Bangladesh.

The WEF leaders, including its president Borge Brende, highly praised Sheikh Hasina for her leadership in the economic development of Bangladesh.

They said Bangladesh earned a remarkable GDP growth over the past years.

Export products to India, beyond

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged big Indian investors to set up industries in Bangladesh and export the products, to be produced in those industries, to vast markets in India and South East Asian countries, taking advantage of the improved connectivity.

"We want to see trade and investment together where Indian big investors can set up industries in Bangladesh and export the products to the north-eastern states of India and to the South-East Asian countries, taking advantage of the improved connectivity between us," she said.

The Prime Minister was addressing the inaugural session of India-Bangladesh Business Forum, held at the Hotel ITC Maurya in the capital city of India on October 4.

Hasina said strategic location of Bangladesh provides "tremendous potential" for being the economic hub of the region. "With India on the west, China on the north and South-East Asia on the east, Bangladesh is in the middle of a combined market of 4 billion people."

Noting that most of the growing economies in the world have undertaken their primary trade and investment projects in their neighbouring countries, she said in a similar manner, Indian business leaders could play a very big role in furthering Bangladesh's economic prospects.

"Together we would build "Sonar Bangla" or Golden Bangladesh, as dreamt by the Father of our Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," Hasina said.

She said the persistent growth of global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Bangladesh since her government took over in 2009 reflects the increasing confidence of the foreign investment in Bangladesh.

Hasina said Bangladesh has the most liberal investment policy in South Asia and it includes protection of foreign investment by law; generous tax holiday; concessionary duty on import of machinery; unrestricted exit policy; full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit, to name a few.

Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is the second largest garment exporter, third largest inland fish producer, fourth largest freshwater fish producer, fourth largest rice producer and eighth largest remittance earning country, she said.

The GDP growth was 8.1 percent in the last fiscal year and it is expecting to be 8.2 percent in the current fiscal, said the Prime Minister.

Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Rahim, President of Confederation of India Industries (CII) and also vice chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Limited Vikram S. Kirloskar, FICCI President and also Managing Director of HSIL Limited Sandip Somany also spoke on the occasion.ASSOCHAM President and Chairman of Welspun Group BK Goenka moderated the event.

Overcome misperception

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has suggested the South Asian countries to ensure mutual trust and respect among all communities and countries overcoming "misperceptions and false apprehensions" aiming to strengthen regional cooperation and development.

"In the past decades, we've seen many lofty regional ideas and initiatives. Some succeeded, others could not deliver," she said placing four principles to follow in the next decades with much emphasis on managing geo-political realities through friendship and collaboration.

The Prime Minister made the remarks at the closing plenary of the two-day India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum.

Inspired by his visionary ideas of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and driven by his belief in shared prosperity and responsibility, Bangladesh continues to champion regional cooperation like Bimstec, Saarc, BBIN and BCIM, she said.

Talking about the first principle, the Prime Minister said, "We must strive to secure peace, stability and harmony, for every individual across our societies. We must move beyond the majority- minority mindset."

She said pluralism has been a strength of South Asia for centuries. "So, we should be able to celebrate South Asia's diversities in religion, ethnicity and language. This is fundamental."

Placing the third principle, the Prime Minister said mutual trust and mutual respect between all communities and countries is the key. "We need to get over misperceptions and false apprehensions."

She said Bangladesh has consistently been contributing to international peace and security in global spheres, emanating from our policy of "Friendship to all, Malice to none", as laid out by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. "This approach helped us maintain good relations with all countries."

Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh resolved sharing of the Ganges river water with India in 1996. "We amicably delimited our maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh and India are now developing trans-boundary river navigation. We're buying power from India through inter-country grid connections," she said.

The Prime Minister said such collaborative culture is essential across their politics, economy and society.

Placing the second principles, she said, "We must ensure that inequality across societies do not widen in times of faster growth. Wealth creation should be inclusive and must trickle down to the bottom millions. Less developed communities or countries should not lag behind. We must deliver to the aspirations and demands of our youths. We need to hold hands of 'others' across South Asia through our knowledge - experience - expertise - investments."

Describing the fourth principle, Hasina said, "We must manage our geo-political realities through friendship and collaboration. Let us appreciate and balance regional political realties for the interest of our peoples. We cannot trade off long-term interests for short-term gains."

The Prime Minister said South Asia must emerge as a connected, friendly and competitive region always ready to build bridges with other regions.

Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat, Managing Director of Sequoia Capital India Shailendra Singh, Executive Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospital Enterprise Shobana Karmineni, Chairwoman of Gillian Tans were panelists at the event.

Replying to a query from the moderator of the event, Prime Minister Hasina said Bangladesh is attaching priority to establish connectivity among the South Asia, South East Asia and others to promote trade and commerce in the region.

She said Bangabandhu had realised the importance of enhancing connectivity for the prosperity of the region.

Sheikh Hasina said her government is working to restore the previous connectivity which was suspended after 1965. "We always think about it. We can make a bridge in this region and beyond the region," she said, adding that Bangladesh is playing its role in establishing the Asian highway and Asian railway network.

Describing poverty as a common enemy, Hasina said all countries in the region should work together to fight the menace. "We have the ability to do it and we'll definitely do it," she said.

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