To bridge the trade gap with Malaysia which is now heavily in favour of the Southeast Asian country, Bangladesh needs to concentrate on high value and high-end finished products through export diversification, said the Malaysian envoy here on Monday.
“We need high value and high-end finished products (from Bangladesh),” Malaysian High Commissioner in Dhaka Norlin Othman told a ‘Meet-the-Press’ programme at the Jatiya Press Club.
The diplomat also suggested the exporters to diversify their products what they are currently selling to Malaysia to boost bilateral trade apart from joining hands with Malaysian companies to produce products here and re-export those to the global market, reports UNB.
Responding to a question over reported capital flight from Bangladesh to Malaysia through the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, Othman apparently supported the programme and said most of them, enrolled under the MM2H from Bangladesh, are businesspeople.
“They’ve their business there and MH2M progamme helps operate their business smoothly,” she said adding that they (BD businesspeople) also source money from their global business destinations like the USA, the UK and Canada apart from their family members living in developed countries and their business from Malaysia.
The diplomat, however, said Bangladesh is among the top three countries in terms of numbers who have already been enrolled under the MM2H programme with China and Japan are on the front line.
Othman who thinks the process is not so much expensive also said so far 2923 Bangladeshis have signed up for the MM2H programme in Malaysia.
Bangladeshis started taking up the offer in 2003 when 32 citizens chose to settle in Malaysia under the programme.
According to the Malaysian government rules, to settle there under the programme, one needs to deposit liquid assets worth at least RM 500,000 (about Tk 1.22 crore) and show offshore income of RM 10,000 (about Tk 2.45 lakh) per month.
In reply to a question on signing the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh, the diplomat said they floated the idea but have not received yet any positive feedback from Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is on our list…the proposal is there. But this hasn’t gained momentum,” Othman said mentioning that Malaysia has FTAs with India and Pakistan.
On slower progress of manpower recruitment from Bangladesh, she said the process depends on ‘demand and supply’.
She said there has been Minister-level discussion and Malaysia is ready to open up its manpower market for Bangladesh in a number of areas, including construction and ‘house-manager’ (domestic help). “Follow-up action is being taken up. Joint working group is working on it.”
Justifying the government-t-government (G-G) process, Othman said this mechanism is credible and secure for workers. “We recruit workers from 16 countries and we don’t have this mechanism with other countries,” she adding that mechanism was chosen to stop cheat and mistreat the workers.
“We both have to work together to carry out the credible process. We want to stop illegal practices,” she said.
Hartal and Democracy
The Malaysian High Commissioner termed hartal part of a democratic process in Bangladesh but found it as one of the discouraging factors for investment—both domestic and foreign.
“In Bangladesh, you’ve a very vibrant democratic process. Hartal is part of your democratic process. That’s your right because this is allowed in your country,” she said.
The diplomat who attended the programme to talk to the press despite countrywide hartal enforced by the BNP-led alliance looked very cheerful being able to meet the press which is very ‘vibrant’ in Bangladesh and playing a very important role.
“To me…hartal is there…that doesn’t mean life is stopped. I’ve come to talk to you (despite hartal). I came so easily and early as there is less traffic,” Norlin said.
In response to a question, she said hartal is one of the factors that discourage investment but investors look for other facilities like adequate infrastructure, uninterrupted power supply and communication system, especially road communication, to make investment decisions.
The Malaysian diplomat thinks Bangladesh has potentials to grow further in all fronts but finds lack of coordination.
She, however, said Malaysia’s relations with Bangladesh are moving well and both the countries have similar positions in various global forums. “Things are moving well. We’re very happy at the present situation. Our focus is on trade and investment and enhancing people-to-people contact.”
Othman informed that some Malaysian businessmen are trying to set up their factories and produce products here which also boost employment.
Explaining the advantage of producing products here, she said there is a vast market here and in Malaysia, and the products can be exported to the rest of the world with duty-free export advantage.
General Secretary of the Jatiya Press Club Syed Abdal Ahmed also spoke at the programme held with convener of the Meet-the-Press and International Liasion Sub Committee Kazi Rawnak Hossain in the chair.