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Sri Lanka and Bangladesh shouldn’t compete for the same objective: Bangladesh HC

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President NCCSL, Nandika Buddhipala presents a token of appreciation to Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Md Ariful Islam at the bilateral trade and investment forum held at the National Chamber of Commerce recently.

*  Political stability has mainly driven the growth trajectory in Bangladesh

*  Bangladesh is poised to capture a bigger share of the global apparel market

*  More Sri Lankan businesses should tap the growth centre next door

*  Draws attention to a great shortcoming in connectivity between the two countries

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can gain more from bilateral trade cooperation by strategically utilizing the two countries’ respective comparative advantages and strengths than from competing with each other for the same objective, Bangladesh High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Tareq Md Ariful Islam said in Colombo recently.

“All the more so because the two countries have a similar product range which has led to a low bilateral trade volume of US$ 200-300 million,” he pointed out.

The High Commissioner made these remarks while addressing a bilateral trade and investment forum at the auditorium of the National Chamber of Commerce (NCCSL) where he was the special guest speaker.

“The similarity in our product range is the main reason behind low trade volume. However, there is a lot of scope for improvement in our trade ties. What we need to do is to couple our respective, comparative advantages and build resilient cooperation to be more competitive in the global market,” he observed.

“The two countries have just completed 50-years of diplomatic relationship.

It has been a long, enduring relationship based on friendship, goodwill and good neighborliness. Over these 50 years, we have enjoyed very strong bonds of solidarity and friendship. Our business ties are also very strong. Now we need to capitalize on our excellent political relations to make the business relationship stronger to make it more tangible, so that it can touch the lives of our people and also help Sri Lanka’s endeavors towards its economic recovery,” he said.

Presenting a comprehensive picture under the theme of the discussion, the High Commissioner went on to say:

“Sri Lankan business community would like to know what opportunities are available in Bangladesh for trade and investment, its government policies, macroeconomic data and how the Bangladesh High Commission in Sri Lanka can help them in this regard.”

“According to my view, preferential trade agreements (PTAs) or free trade agreements (FTAs) shouldn’t be seen through the lens of revenue earning or revenue loss. It means much more than that. While revenue loss and revenue gains are definitely important, there are many other benefits that PTAs and FTAs can bring to our economies; for example, creation of employment and enhancement of our respective competitiveness in the global market. So we should take a holistic approach to FTAs and PTAs. If we can judiciously select the respective tariff lines, then there is every possibility that a PTA or FTA between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka can be successful. We are very encouraged to see that the current government has put a lot of emphasis on PTAs and FTAs with bilateral partners. We started our negotiation late last year. So far we have made good progress, but we still have to do more.”

“Bangladesh initially received substantial investment from Sri Lanka; mostly in readymade garments sector and now Sri Lankan companies have extended into health, power, logistics, financial sector etc. Now they have diversified into investment banking, wealth management, paint, packaging, FMCG etc. This is an indication about the growing, diversified market in Bangladesh. Most of the conglomerates in Sri Lanka have very successful operations in Bangladesh and more Sri Lankan businesses are showing interest in doing business in Bangladesh.”

“Bangladesh has had consistently high economic growth. The average GDP growth in the last 30 years is 6.6% which is among the best in the world. In 2019, it reached 8.15% right before the pandemic. During the pandemic, Bangladesh had 5.4% growth which was among the highest in the world during Covid time. In financial year 2020-21 our growth was 6.9% according to the IMF. In 2021, it went up to 7.2%. The focus for 2022-23 according to the IMF is 6%, but we are hopeful of achieving higher growth. Our foreign debt to GDP is 11.86% and local debt to GDP is 31.42% which is the lowest in the region. Bangladesh is a USD 400 billion plus economy – 41 largest in terms of nominal GDP and 32 largest in terms of purchasing power parity. Per capita income has soared to USD 2,824. Foreign exchange reserves are now USD 34 billion. It was USD 44 billion last year and the decline was due to the rise in the prices of essential commodities in the global market.”

“We have sought an IMF package. We got USD 4.5 billion. This was not a bailout. It was to deal with balance of payment issues. Bangladesh’s Inflation is at a single digit of 8.9%. Remittance in 2019-2020 was USD 18 billion and even during the pandemic, it went up to USD 24 billion. Our exports crossed the USD 50 billion mark last year for the first time.”

“There is a winning combination of conditions for any potential investor or business house to do business in Bangladesh. The main driving force has been our political stability which has mainly helped the growth trajectory in Bangladesh. Ours is a domestic market with 165 million people and out of that, 37 million is the growing middle class whose per capita income is between USD 5,000 and 7,000. On top of that two million are joining the middle class each year.”

“Because Bangladesh has handled geo-politics well, it has become a sought-after destination for many regional business houses to relocate their establishments. We have special economic zones dedicated for Japan, India, China and South Korea. This shows that investment is safe and profitable in Bangladesh, therefore, Sri Lanka can further tap this growth centre next door.”

“Bangladesh is poised to capture a bigger share of the global apparel market. Sri Lanka can also contribute in that direction. Apparel industry of the two countries can utilize the comparative advantages in the production process, value addition in re-exports etc. We can utilize Sri Lankan expertise in this sector. Sri Lankans have helped take our readymade garments sector to where it’s today. Our apparel industry continues to benefit from your human resources.”

“Through cooperation, we can enhance our global competitiveness in our IT products. Manufacturing of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment also has more scope for investment.”

“About 700,000 Bangladeshis spend USD 3.5 million every year for overseas medical treatments. That’s a big market Sri Lanka can tap. Electronic components, agricultural food processing, leather and footwear, medical insurance, steel and cement, renewable energy, FMCG, retail operations, supply chain and logistics, financial sector are other sectors with opportunities for investment, supported by proactive policies of the Bangladesh government.”

“Although both countries are into tea, your global tea brands can partner with us in making fine blended tea, “he said.

The High Commissioner chose this forum to draw attention to a great shortcoming in connectivity between the two countries by sea and air which leads to the disadvantage of Sri Lanka tourism.

“Bangladeshis with disposable income travel to all regional destinations, but they are not coming to Sri Lanka because of the poor connectivity. If connectivity and affordability of air fares can be taken care of, Sri Lanka tourism can benefit from it,” he said.

In 2020, Bangladesh imported $153 million worth of goods from Sri Lanka while exports from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka stood at $ 48 million.



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Farmchemie becomes the first Sri Lankan owned company to receive FAMI-QS certification

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Farmchemie has obtained FAMI-QS certification being the first Sri Lankan owned company certified with FAMI-QS. FAMI-QS stands for Feed Additive and pre-MIxture Quality System, which compromises the safety of animal feed and the quality of processed goods in accordance with European regulation no. 183/2005 on animal feed. Farmchemie is a BOI approved leading manufacturer and exporter of animal feed additives and nutritional supplements in Asia. Farmchemie is equipped with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility from Bühler, Switzerland to offer quality assured manufacturing services for world-renowned European brands as well as own brands under Farmstar. Farmchemie has already established their presence in numerous international markets such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kuwait, Lebanon, UAE, Egypt, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mongolia, Cambodia and Uganda. FAMI-QS will enable them to expand their markets including the European and USA.

“We are honoured to announce that Farmchemie becomes the first Sri Lankan-owned company to be certified with FAMI-QS in combination with ISO 9001: 2015 and Good Manufacturing Practices certification for animal feeding. By attaining FAMI-QS, we are able to anticipate the expectations of our clients for safe, high-quality goods by lowering the related risk and enhancing the quality of onsite feeds via a supply chain that is properly guaranteed. For that Farmchemie implements measures for Feed Fraud and Feed Defense according to FAMI-QS supply chain integrity module V2. We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to our customers and suppliers for their continued support and dedication. We look forward to elevating the firm to new heights in the coming months and years, as our aims will always be centered on quality assurance and innovative manufacturing.” Managing Director Uditha Wanigasinghe stated.

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Exports Gold Award for Textrip

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Textrip Pvt Ltd, the export arm of the Elasto Group, was recently recognized, as the gold award winner for rubber and rubber-based products, medium scale category at the NCE Export Awards ceremony held recently in Colombo. The Chairman and Managing Director of Elasto Group, Mangala Gunasekera accepted the award at the gala event held at Shangri La Hotel. The national export awards ceremony, organized by the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), recognizes and rewards Sri Lankan exporters on their performance in the international market.

“We always strive to manufacture high-quality rubber-based goods, using the latest technology, adhering to the highest international standards, and showcasing Sri Lanka on the global stage. I would like to thank our clients, locally and internationally for their continuous trust and my staff for their hard work and dedication. They are the pillars of our success,” Managing Director of Elasto Group, Mangala Gunasekera stated. Textrip products have obtained a number of national and international quality standards such as ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, CET, REACH and their products are designed to adhere to the ‘Wellness Wisdom’ theme. The company works with over 100 top sports and wellness brands and exports to more than 30 countries including European countries and the United States. TEXSTRETCH Progressive Exercise Resistance Bands is one of the most popular products of the company. The product is a great full-body workout solution for users of any level.

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Sri Lanka Tourism returns to Spanish market after pandemic

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Spain is one of the fastest recovery markets for Sri Lanka Tourism after the pandemic and participation in FITUR argues well for the much-needed exposure for Sri Lanka as an attractive tourism destination for Spanish-speaking countries, contributing in a substantive manner to its overall growth strategy. Sri Lanka Tourism made the presence with the 28 private sector companies at 43rd edition of FITUR International Travel Mart which was held from 18- 22 January 2023, Madrid, Spain. FITUR is the largest tourism event in the Spanish Market where all the sectors leisure, business and MICE tourism meet under one roof.

Sri Lanka Tourism stall was ceremonially opened by Mr.Chalaka Gajabahu ,Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Barcelona, Mr. Agustin Llana and representatives of the leading private sector members of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was able to attract high level of attention from the trade and travel visitors attended at the event. The Sri Lanka pavilion highlighted many aspects of its potential culture, beauty, Ayurveda and many more which Sri Lanka would offer as a tourism destination. Sri Lanka stand optimized the “So Sri Lanka” and “Visit Sri Lanka” vivid sights to attract the potential visitor segments. At the Sri Lanka pavilion, Ceylon tea was served for the visitors with a view of promoting Ceylon tea in the Spanish market.

On the sideline of the FITUR travel fair, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Burau officials participated at the events organized by the UNWTO. During the events, SLTPB officials met with the Mr.Harry Hwang , Director of Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific, UNWTO.As a result of discussions, Mr.Harry Hwang has shown the interest to hold the UNWTO Joint commission in Sri Lanka in 2024.

Meantime, the SLTPB and Sri Lanka Embassy of France also took steps to arrange Business Meetings, exclusive media interviews, Air Line meetings at the FITUR 2023. The Media gathering conducted during the fair created the great opportunity to highlight the updates on the destination and create awareness on the destination.

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