Bellwether Bangladesh banks on supply chain resilience to beckon businesses

Thanks to its resilient supply chain networks, Bangladesh managed to turn the Covid crisis into an opportunity for a major shift towards a manufacturing-friendly environment.

Over the past two years, Bangladesh focussed on the development of mega economic zones and building infrastructure to woo global firms desperately looking for new production hubs as a hedge against future risks in the wake of a Covid-induced supply chain disruption in China.

In fact, in one month alone — in December 2021 — Bangladesh shipped goods worth over 4.9 billion US dollars, creating a record and propelling the overall export earnings to 39.14 billion US dollars in that year alone, as per the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) figures.

This clearly exhibited the country’s ability to become a key manufacturing hub for global buyers, according to economists.

Economist AB Mirza Azizul Islam said that utilising the easy availability of cheap labour and geographical advantage amid the pandemic, “Bangladesh has already earned the trust of global buyers that it can retain the supply chain even during a crisis”.

“Policy support, infrastructure development, easing the connectivity of ports with the domestic manufacturing and export processing zones, simplification of the financial system and development of backward linkage supply channels in line with the finished goods all help keep the country ahead to becoming a trusted manufacturing hub,” he told UNB.

Though the pandemic caused the global export market to suffer in 2020, Bangladesh’s export earnings were 33.6 billion US dollars. Export earnings increased by 16.46% in 2021, according to statistics. Readymade garment exports contributed to about 20 billion US dollars, or more than 80% of the total exports in the July-December period.

According to the economists and industrialists, Bangladesh’s economy has returned to normal — the main indicators are all in a positive direction. “The only fear is now just a new variant (Omicron) of the coronavirus. Once it is handled, there is no need to look back.”

Although the flow of remittances has slowed down, export earnings have been increasing in line with imports. Foreign exchange reserves have been in a satisfactory state for a long time. Inflation is still at a tolerable level.

And 2022 is a special year. This year, according to the economists, Bangladesh is moving forward by witnessing 50 years of courageous achievement in a new venture. Three major development projects — Padma Bridge, Dhaka Metro and the Chattogram tunnel — will be launched between June and December this year.

Traffic will start on the big-ticket Padma Bridge in 2022, trains will also run at the same time. At the same time, Metro Rail will run from north to south of the capital. The tunnel under the Karnaphuli river will also be opened in the southeastern port city of Chittagong. This tunnel will reduce the distance between Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong by 40km.

Moreover, work on the first unit of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the largest single infrastructure project in Bangladesh, is nearing completion this year, and power generation will start from 2023. Work is also in full swing to establish Bangabandhu Industrial City.

According to Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) sources, Bangabandhu Industrial City is being developed across 30,000 acres of land in Mirsarai and Sitakunda upazilas of Chattogram, and Sonagazi upazila of Feni. BEZA hopes employment opportunities will be created for 1.5 million people in this industrial city.

Besides, the development work of several other special economic zones are under progress and hope to be completed by 2023.

As a result, in 2023, the journey of a different Bangladesh in terms of infrastructure capacity will be seen. However, there is still a stagnation in foreign investment in Bangladesh. So, economists and business leaders have urged the government to focus on increasing investments rather than being complacent on positive news.

Source: United News of Bangladesh