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A new industrial powerhouse

Interview - May 12, 2015

United World sits down with the Honorable Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu to discuss the importance of establishing Bangladesh as the new hub of manufacturing in the region.


As far as socio-economic development in the country, how do you see Bangladesh’s progress in reducing poverty and the role of industry in accelerating poverty reduction?

Under the leadership of our Father of the Nation Bangladesh began its journey to the path of development immediately after its independence in 1971. This journey began, and Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continues to lead Bangladesh to achieve tremendous progress in alleviation of poverty, ensuring education and health services for all people, creating jobs for the young workforce, securing social safety nets for the economically vulnerable group of the society.

Today Bangladesh is among the few developing countries that are on schedule for achieving most of the millennium goals set by the UN. The areas where Bangladesh achieved the targets include goal are eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rate and several diseases. Bangladesh earned the recognition of the global community for its relentless efforts to advance development and prosperity and commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The Government of Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been working relentlessly for Vision 2021 to establish Sonar Bangla. We have identified that one of the key conditions for achieving our goal of becoming a middle income country by 2021 is to boost investments in infrastructure from the current 2% to 6% of GDP. Over 50 million people have been elevated to middle-income group from low-income status over last few years. Bangladesh is a vibrant economy that has, despite the recent global economic meltdown, maintained a consistent growth rate 6% plus. With a population of 160 million people, Bangladesh boasts of an industrialist workforce that is changing the profile of the economy.

Considering the progress that has been made towards Vision 2021 and the MDG goals, but also the unrest that has occurred in your country, what are your thoughts on the recent elections and the incumbent government’s leadership of Bangladesh?

Our present Government took over the state responsibility for their second term with a view to bring about positive changes in the society and governance. The recent elections mark the first time in the history of Bangladesh that an elected Government has come into its second term in office after having successfully completed the first one. The drive of the present government is to build a knowledge based society through hi-tech and sustainable green industrialization and digitalization. Maintaining continuous and unhindered industrial growth is also a symbol of political dynamism and policy efficiency of present government.

What role do you see the Ministry of Industries as having in ensuring that Vision 2021 is achieved?

Our present Government is committed to bringing about real, tangible and meaningful change for the improvement of lives of our people. This commitment to change is manifest in the longer term in ‘Vision 2021’-the roadmap for Bangladesh to emerge as a modern, industrialized and middle-income country, ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by the year 2021 and a developed country by 2041.

In order to materialize our dream into reality, we are giving more thrust on the establishment of knowledge based hi-tech green industries. For this, we have been pursuing a liberal investment and industrial policy for foreign investors with huge attractive incentive package. During the last six years of the government, the Ministry of Industries has been able to play a very effective catalytic role in developing the industrialization process both in the public and private sectors. We are working as a facilitator with appropriate policy and logistic supports for sustainable development of private sector. Meanwhile Public-Private Partnership effort has been strengthened in the country and a policy guideline has been effectuated. Now, the Ministry of Industries has been considered by the Private sector as an important development partner.  

What would you say are your main objectives and priorities as Minister of Industries?

I would say my main goal is our government's National Industrial Policy 2010, brought about during its previous tenure and aiming to bring dynamism in the industrial sector. The prime objective of that industrial policy was to ensure 40% contribution of industrial sector to the country’s national income and 25% employment generation by 2021. The government is sincerely working to ensure necessary economic stimulus packages, infrastructure facilities and policy support for achieving the objective. The Industrial Policy 2010 has identified 32 thrust sectors and 31 industrial service sectors for augmenting rapid industrial growth and economic development.  

We are giving emphasis not only on the development of textile and clothing sector but also on other prospective industrial sectors like shipbuilding and ship recycling, ceramic, pharmaceutical, electric & electronic, leather, automobile, jute and jute goods, furniture, plastic and agro products. I am happy to mention here that Bangladeshi high quality medicines are now being exported to over 80 countries of the world including the EU and the USA. Very recently the shipbuilding industry of Bangladesh has acquired momentum in becoming a booming industrial sector day by day.

In terms of the current industrial policy, what would you say are the priorities for fostering private entrepreneurship and enhancing productivity?

Over the recent years, Bangladesh has initiated a number of efficient policy frameworks conducive to socio-economic growth, particularly for the growth of investment, trade, commerce, employment, quality, and productivity. Such initiatives show our sincerity and commitment to catch up with the train of socio-economic development and transform ourselves into a middle income country by the year 2021.

Very recently the Ministry of Industries has taken the initiative to formulate National Industrial Policy-2015 recasting the previous one, focusing on growth competitiveness, reform and ease of doing business. We have already made a draft of National Industrial Policy 2015 and it will be finalize soon after taking opinions from the stakeholders. We will expand policy support and incentive packages to the foreign investors under the guidelines of this new industrial policy.

I know one of the initiatives you have been undergoing is the recent establishment of industrial parks. How do you view the progress that has been made in those projects?

Our government has taken on a good number of initiatives, including setting up Industrial Parks, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to utilize the existing huge potentials in the industrial sector. Five Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will be set up under Bangladesh Economic Zones Development Fund. Government has decided to provide special allocation for investors of Japan, China, Korea, India and other important countries.

Under the Ministry of Industries, we are currently implementing several projects with a view to bring about positive changes in the industrial sector. We are taking steps for quick completion of a number of priority projects such as the Shahjahal fertilizer factory, the BSCIC industrial estates in Sirajganj and Borguna, Comilla industrial estate, strengthening of BSTI etc. The construction of CETP at the BSCIC Leather Estate in Savar is also going in full swing & 60% of the physical work has been completed and hopefully, the rest would be completed in the targeted time.

What would you consider to be the challenges in achieving greater prosperity, and how can Bangladesh leverage its natural strengths?

Now we are facing some challenges with an insufficient supply of energy and power. The government has put in place a comprehensive program to set up power plants with utmost rapidity so that the demand cannot outstrip supply. We remain sure that new investments on energy generation keep on increasing, even after the present plan for energy agglomeration is implemented. 

The other aspect is technology. With this regards our strategy is to look at building up our own technology base, where our own engineers will fashion new and sophisticated machines which would produce more at less cost. At the same time we invite foreign investments to benefit us with technology transfer, skills development and employment.

Considering the efforts by the Ministry to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the citizen of Bangladesh, do you believe they will see success?

Despite the recent global economic crisis Bangladesh’s consistent growth in GDP, export and remittance clearly depicts a picture of substantive and pragmatic economy management. The favorable investment climate that has been created shows an upward trend. The impact being that many local and foreign investment projects are taken up which is being lauded by many around the world. Bangladesh has been listed in Goldman Sachs’ ‘Next 11’ and JP Morgan’s ‘Frontier Five’.

We are able to raise the industrial sector’s contribution to the national economy to 32% and increase the sector’s work force by 20% despite global economic downturn and domestic political violence. Our government is working on increasing food production, strengthening agricultural research institutes, increasing farm productivity, building roads and harbors and setting up industrial zones for providing job opportunities that would be an excellent start and a base for subsequent development.

What are your views on general bilateral relations and areas you see opportunities for greater cooperation?

The USA has always been a proven friend of Bangladesh. The excellent bilateral relationship between the two countries are time tested and rooted in our shared commitment to democracy, development, international peace and security. Commonalities of state policies of Bangladesh and USA have contributed to a better understanding and in forging closer partnership between our two countries. We whole heartedly wish that our ties are further cemented in the days ahead.

Bangladesh is an emerging economy with endless opportunities which is supported by an open market-based system, congenial investment climate with supportive regulatory environment. Our government has considered foreign direct investment is an important tool to attain the goal of development. All our efforts are taken to ease the regulatory challenges so that doing business can become comfortable to the investors. We have had bilateral Investment Agreements with USA since 1998. Under the purview of that agreement Bangladesh is always keen to get US investment.