Sunday, January 20, 2019 | ePaper

Last train of opportunity

BD must improve negotiation skill to gain from China, say analysts

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Monirul Alam :
Bangladesh must improve its bureaucratic capability and use business personalities and professionals outside the government as negotiation tools to yield better benefits from China in trade and investments and obtain suppliers credit at competitive rate of interest, say analysts.
They say Bangladesh's diplomatic ties with China reached a new height in the last few years amid expanding geo-political relations in global and regional arenas at the outset of trade and investment needs that led to pay bilateral visits by Presidents and Prime Ministers from both the countries and signing of deals on manifold joint initiatives; in which Bangladesh holds as beneficiary.
But, implementation of the joint deals and initiatives and contract engagements in large projects are less visible than what extent is in 'Black and White', they observed.
The analysts see a big chance for Bangladesh in the process United States and China is competing over the hold the position of super economy; from which the country can yield benefit in raising export, enjoy less tariff in import and incoming FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments) and secure suppliers credit at less interest.
"Bangladesh must improve negotiation skill to gain from China. And, China is now biggest economy and Bangladesh should keep good relations with the country for her own interest," said Dr Zahid Hussain, World Bank Bangladesh chapter's chief economist.
He said 'supplier's credit' from China has become a bit costly for Bangladesh which can be with competitive rate of interest by proper negotiations.   
"In yielding benefit from China's business and investment plans, the government (of Bangladesh) cannot play alone all the way through. But the government's policy decision is needed to include senior business and cultural personalities who have detail idea about China in negotiation teams and it may bring good result. Language barrier is also a big disadvantage and initiative is needed to remove it by creating skilled manpower," he said.
Talking to The New Nation on Thursday, Dr Zahid said, "Right now, China is about to surpass U.S economy and the U.S is fighting to keep continue its position. This competition is shaking and reshaping the global economies. China's widening global market in which Bangladesh is largely depending on imports can give huge benefit to Bangladesh. But, our government is not that skill in negotiations due to weak bureaucracy. In this case, professionals outside the government and business personalities can be use as negotiation tools."  
He said China's moving from low-wage industry to hi-tech ones and shifting of factories to countries having least production cost that creates opportunities for Bangladesh in China and in the U.S markets.
"Bangladesh must identify its chances and work accordingly to get benefits out of it. But, in this process, the country has no capability," he noted, adding, China itself a huge market and requires variety of products with vast of quantity and Bangladeshi businesses can come up with new manufacturing plans and initiatives of generating fresh entrepreneurs to gain from it.     
Dr Zahid said China has been Bangladesh's largest import source of capital machinery, apparel raw materials, intermediary goods and various households and baby items while, historically, cultural and business relation between the two nations was good.
He said China's multibillion dollar 'Belt and Road Initiative' is also important for Bangladesh to link with it as the project physically moving through South Asia to Europe connecting many countries on its pathway.
Dr. Delwar Hossain, Professor of Department of International Relations Studies of Dhaka University, has identified the current relationship with China as 'The Last Train of Opportunity' for Bangladesh towards achieving the development goal.
Expressing concern, Prof Delwar told The New Nation, "If Bangladesh failed to utilize this chance, the targets of becoming middle income nation and the country's development may not be possible."
He said strong persuasion of policy focuses of the government is indispensable and only strong political will can led towards proper mobilization of foreign funds, which gained from China, for large infrastructure projects at competitive rate of interest.
"Here, our bureaucracy is too weak," said Prof Delwar.
"Negotiations should be in a way so we are not to be 'hostile' or 'hostage' to any party," he said.
He said delay in negotiations and decision making by the government also needs to be avoided as it may led to uncertainty to any development plans. Showing the example of 'Deep Sea Port, one of many mega projects, Prof Delwar said financing by China to the project turns uncertain due to unusual delay and following that of the internal unrest in Myanmar that also affects Bangladesh adversely.
He said an Export Processing Zone in Chittagong has been given to South Korea decades ago but it doesn't bring much benefit, which was the initial target. Yet, this is good that China shows interest in taking over a piece of land to develop it as an export zone and the government of Bangladesh has awarded a space in Chittagong to China for establishing industrial units recently. "This type of decision needs more consolidate plan and proper monitoring of the implementation process and speed."
He said huge public investment in education in the country was needed to be reviewed as the funds are being used only to create every year thousands of graduates, who are not capable in the reality to secure job or become entrepreneur as they lacks technical knowledge or course content that gives them no real sense to move to be a manufacturer or an entrepreneur after completion of study.
Chinese public sector has been engaged in a number of multi-billion-dollar projects, including the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Karnaphuli Tunnel in Chittagong beneath the river Karnaphuli, Matarbari Coal-based Power Plant and a Power Plant at the Payra Sea Port, Metro Rail in Dhaka, and Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh four lane highways. In these projects, China is providing both financial and technical assistances.   
Besides, Chinese contractors were also engaged in a number of moderate financing projects across Bangladesh, including bridges, high-rise buildings and renovation or expansion of power plants.
Bangladesh has been engaged in a Chinese initiative of a large bank in Asia styled "Asian Infrastructure Improvement Bank (AIIB)" with a small stake especially at the invitation of China's President Xi Jinping following his visit to Dhaka in October 14-15' in 2016.
Earlier, Premiers of two nations have paid counter visits to Dhaka and Beijing since the current political party sworn in power. Chinese President himself wrote an article that published by a leading Bengali Newspaper in Bangladesh as a goodwill gesture for people of this country in 2016.
In that article, the Chinese President made commitment for people of Bangladesh to stay beside whenever they needed.

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