UAE investors to inject $10bn in Bangladesh economic zones

Ships lie at anchor in the River Karnafuli, near Chittagong. Several UAE-based investors have expressed interest in developing economic zones and hi-tech parks in Bangladesh. (Reuters)
Updated 17 September 2019

UAE investors to inject $10bn in Bangladesh economic zones

  • Conference aimed at strengthening the flow of trade and investment between the two countries
  • Bangladesh is on a growth overdrive and is expected to touch more than 8 percent in the next few years, making it the fastest growing economy in the world

DHAKA: UAE-based investors have lined up several new projects including five free economic zones worth $10 billion in Bangladesh, the plans for which were discussed at the Bangladesh Economic Forum in Dubai on Sunday.

Salman F. Rahman, advisor to Bangladesh’s prime minister on private industry and investment, led a 20-member government delegation comprising officials from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority and Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority for the meeting in the UAE.

This was the first time representatives from all three agencies participated in the Bangladesh Economic Forum — a private sector initiative undertaken by UAE-based, non-resident Bangladeshi professionals and entrepreneurs.

More than 300 government officials, business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs participated in the day-long international investment conference, which is aimed at strengthening the flow of trade and investment between the UAE and Bangladesh.

Several UAE-based investors expressed interest in developing economic zones and hi-tech parks in Bangladesh.

“I am pleased to see strong and genuine interest among UAE-based investors — both UAE national and foreign business groups — in investing in Bangladesh,” Rahman said.

He added that Dhaka had seen heavy investments from China, Japan and the US, urging investors from Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to “take advantage of the lower cost of investment, operations and higher return on investment in Bangladesh.”

“Investment from the GCC and the Arab world will help us achieve a higher growth rate and we are more than ready to welcome them,” Rahman said.

Kamrul Hasan, commerce secretary of Bangladesh’s mission in the UAE, told Arab News that it was a very successful discussion. “Besides, the event created a very positive branding for Bangladesh” he added.

Experts welcomed the proposal, with Dr. Shamsul Alam, member of the country’s planning commission, saying that at this moment, it was the “most desirable thing for the country.”

“To attain the target of our sustainable development goals, we need to have at least $9 billion in investment every year until 2030,” Alam told Arab News.

“At present, Bangladesh has the most congenial policy regime — foreign investors are enjoying the opportunity of a 100 percent profit repatriation policy,” he added.

However, he said that to attract investment, the country was working on building 100 economic processing zones and 28 hi-tech parks by 2030, with plans in place to get 15 ready in the next five years.

Bangladesh’s economy grew at 7.9 percent in 2018. The country is on a growth overdrive and is expected to touch more than 8 percent in the next few years, making it the fastest growing economy in the world.

In order to sustain 8 percent plus gross domestic product growth, Bangladesh needs massive foreign and domestic investment which will create employment and ensure sustainable development.

The World Bank estimates Dhaka must spend as much as $10 billion a year by 2020 to bring its power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard in order to serve its growing population.


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”