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Invest in Bangladesh: PM Invites South African Business Leaders

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In a compelling call for collaboration, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh extended an invitation to South African entrepreneurs to invest in her nation’s ambitious journey towards becoming a trillion-dollar economy and a fully developed smart nation by 2041. Speaking at the Bangladesh Trade & Business Summit in South Africa, the Prime Minister emphasized the country’s progress toward prosperity and extended a warm welcome to potential investors. She assured that investment in Bangladesh is secure, underpinned by consistently high returns and a business-friendly atmosphere.

Bangladesh’s commitment to facilitating business operations was emphasized, backed by organizations such as the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority and the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission. The Prime Minister outlined the burgeoning opportunities in Bangladesh’s capital market and the country’s proactive approach to long-term financing in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Prime Minister Hasina underscored the open Foreign Direct Investment policies in Bangladesh, particularly noting the allowance for 100 percent foreign ownership, liberalized industrial policies, a 15-year tax exemption, and streamlined services. The Prime Minister highlighted the underexplored potential of bilateral trade between Bangladesh and South Africa, expressing optimism about enhanced collaboration, especially in sectors like ICT, electronics, textiles, tourism, and heavy industry.

She thanked the significant Bangladeshi population in South Africa for their contribution to the economy and urged further investments. Plans for a joint business forum between key business chambers of Bangladesh and South Africa were also revealed.

Prime Minister Hasina stressed that the heart of Bangladesh’s strength lies in its people, especially its skilled youth population. She acknowledged South Africa’s growing urbanization and economic growth as favorable conditions for expanding Bangladesh’s exports, particularly in sectors like textiles, ready-made garments, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.

The Prime Minister highlighted Bangladesh’s ‘Look Africa’ policy and its exploration of diplomatic and economic avenues on the continent. She revealed Bangladesh’s pursuit of natural resources and raw materials from African nations to fuel its growing industries.

Concluding her address, Prime Minister Hasina expressed confidence in Bangladesh’s progress and commitment to the path of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Her visionary appeal underscored the mutual benefits of a strong partnership between Bangladesh and South Africa, fostering shared growth and prosperity.

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Container rate surge enters longest stretch since the pandemic

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Container export

The spot rate for shipping goods in containers to Europe from Asia rose for a ninth straight week, the longest stretch of rising prices since the pandemic disrupted global supply chains in 2021.

The rate for a 40-foot container to Genoa, Italy, from China hit $7,029 over the past week, the highest level since September 2022, according to the Drewry World Container Index released Thursday. The cost to Rotterdam increased to $6,867. Both rates have essentially doubled since April.

For the busy trade route from Shanghai to Los Angeles, the rate rose for a seventh straight week, to $6,441.

While not all freight is moving at such elevated prices, the spot market for containers reflects the supply of available space on ships and the demand from importers. That balance has tightened during the past six months as vessels avoid the Red Sea, where Houthi rebels have attacked commercial traffic, including a bulk commodity carrier that sunk earlier this week.

Most container lines are taking the longer route around southern Africa, creating disruptions similar to those two or three years ago. Ryan Petersen, founder and chief executive officer of Flexport Inc., said “we’re right back almost to where we were during the peak Covid situation.” He’s seeing spot rates even higher than the numbers Drewry just reported.

“Right now, if you want to ship a container from China to here in the UK it will cost you about $10,000 unless you have a contract,” Petersen said during a Bloomberg Television interview in London on Thursday. “And by the way, most of those contracts that were signed at lower prices are not being honoured and they’re adding surcharges to them.”

Petersen said it’s hard to predict how long shipping prices will keep climbing, noting that carriers spent some of their record-high profits made during the pandemic on new vessels that are entering service through 2026, which should help ease the latest capacity crunch.

But he also said uncertainty about delivery reliability later this year is worrying some companies and motivating them to order now rather than wait. Among the threats is a dockworker strike at ports along the US East and Gulf coasts, which Petersen said might send container rates above their pandemic highs if cargo bound for those gateways is significantly disrupted.

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Why $12.2b export proceeds pending abroad in 9 months of FY24?

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When the country is in dire need of dollars amid a fast erosion of its foreign exchange reserves, $12.2 billion of its total export proceeds remained pending abroad in the first nine months of the fiscal 2023-24 – taking the gap between export receipts and shipment value to a historic high.

Bangladesh Bank data shows that export shipment value, as reported by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), was $40.8 billion in July-March of FY24. However, export receipts through the banking channel were $28.6 billion. The gap of $12.2 billion was reflected in trade credit, a component of the financial account of the country’s balance of payment statement.

The widening gap between export realisations and shipment value has put pressure on the country’s financial account, as it is reflected in trade credit. The deficit in the financial account reached a record high of $9.2 billion in July-March, compared to $2.9 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year, according to central bank data.

Earlier in the FY23, export receipts fell short of the value of shipments by $12 billion, a historic high, raising concerns among the Bangladesh Bank. However, this figure may be even higher by the end of FY24 if the current trend continues.

When contacted, a senior executive of the Bangladesh Bank, involved in preparing the balance of payment statement, explained the rising trade gap, saying that they found a significant mismatch between the EPB-reported export data and the realisation of export proceeds.

The central bank is now working to find out whether export proceeds are not coming home or if there is a problem with the shipment value reported by the EPB, he said.

He added that if any mismatch is identified in accounting between the shipment and realisation values of exports, it will ease the pressure on the financial account.

When asked for an official comment on this matter, Bangladesh Bank Spokesperson Md Mezbaul Haque did not respond.

At present, trade credit reflects the highest negative value among all components of the financial account statement. Trade credit became negative $12.24 billion from July-March of FY24, compared to only $3.96 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Central bank data shows that trade credit has turned significantly negative from positive since last fiscal year, with a widening gap between export shipment and realised value.

In the FY22, trade credit was a positive $311 million, and the financial account had a surplus of $16.6 billion.

Though the unrealised export value is rising, bankers have been experiencing a general trend in export repatriation.

When speaking to the news reporter, a senior executive of a private commercial bank said that the export repatriation trend is normal in his bank. He emphasised, “If exporters do not repatriate their proceeds, how will they run their factories?”

While common factors such as time lag and export bill discounts can account for mismatches between shipment and realised values, a senior executive at the Bangladesh Bank noted that the recent trend of unrealised export proceeds is unusually high.

The mismatch between export shipment and realised value has been notably pronounced over the last two years since FY22, following Bangladesh Bank’s decision to devalue the taka amidst a rising dollar crisis.

In the FY22, unrealised export proceeds reached $8.4 billion, with export receipts lagging 16% behind the shipment value of $52 billion, as disclosed by Bangladesh Bank data in the publication titled “Export Receipts of Goods and Services.”

Central bank data demonstrated that unrealised export proceeds ranged from 10% to 12% of the export shipment value between FY07 and FY21, with figures varying from $1 billion to $5 billion.

Responding to queries regarding the escalating value of unrealised exports during a monetary policy announcement event in June last year, Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder explained that some exporters were deliberately delaying the repatriation of export proceeds to capitalise on currency devaluation.

He mentioned that exporters were permitted to retain export proceeds in their Export Retention Quota (ERQ) account, with a six-month time lag existing between shipment and receipt.

However, he expressed optimism that the Bangladesh Bank’s issuance of a circular to deter gains from devaluation would contribute to reducing the unrealised export value.

Earlier in March last year, the central bank issued a circular stating that exporters would be paid based on the dollar rate on the 120th day of export shipment, even if the proceeds came later. However, this circular seems to have had no impact on export repatriation.

Later, in another circular issued on 20 May, the Bangladesh Bank revised that policy, allowing exporters to receive the dollar rate on the day of encashing export proceeds. As a result, exporters will have an opportunity to receive the current dollar rate even if they encash the export proceeds after the 120th day.

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Dhaka, New Delhi Forge Vision for Digital and Green Partnership: PM Sheikh Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced today (June 22) that Bangladesh and India have agreed on a shared vision for a digital and green partnership aimed at ensuring a sustainable future for both nations.

In a joint statement before the media following her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Hasina said, “Both countries endorsed the ‘Vision Statement’ to guide us toward a peaceful and prosperous future. We agreed to have a shared vision for ‘Digital Partnership’ and ‘Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future.'”

The bilateral discussions covered a broad range of topics, including water sharing from common rivers, security, and trade. Hasina emphasized the importance of India as Bangladesh’s major neighbor, trusted friend, and regional partner, highlighting the deep historical ties since Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

“Our relations with India are ever-growing at a fast pace,” Hasina noted. “Today, our two sides had very productive meetings where we discussed politics and security, trade and connectivity, the sharing of water from common rivers, power and energy, and regional and multilateral cooperation, among other issues of mutual interest.”

The Prime Minister added, “We agreed to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries.” She outlined a future course of action aimed at ensuring a smart Bangladesh by 2041 and a Viksit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047.

Hasina mentioned that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were concluded and renewed, with announcements made for future collaboration. She noted that recent years have seen sustained high-level engagements between the two countries, including visits by the Indian president and prime minister to Bangladesh in 2021 to celebrate significant milestones in Bangladesh’s history.

Reflecting on her own diplomatic engagements, Hasina recalled her last bilateral visit to India in September 2022 and her attendance at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023 as the leader of ‘Guest Country’ Bangladesh. “I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month, June 2024,” she remarked.

Earlier this month, on June 9, Hasina attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet alongside other world leaders, further underscoring the close engagement between the two nations.

During her current visit, Hasina will also meet with the Vice President and the President of India. She expressed optimism that these meetings will provide deeper insights into enhancing bilateral cooperation.

“This is my first bilateral visit to any country after Bangladesh’s 12th Parliamentary Elections and the formation of the new government in January 2024,” Hasina noted, thanking the Indian government for their warm hospitality.

In her concluding remarks, Hasina paid homage to the Indian heroes who sacrificed their lives during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, expressing gratitude for India’s contribution to Bangladesh’s independence. She also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Bangladesh at his earliest convenience.

 

 

 

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