The Scandinavian Embassies jointly organized a programme to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the diplomatic recognition of Bangladesh by Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The event was held through a dialogue on ‘Human Rights & Governance’ and ‘Role of Business in Nation Building’ at the Senate Hall in University of Dhaka. The Nordic countries were among the first countries to recognize Bangladesh in 1972.
The programme commenced with a welcome address by Ambassador Anneli Lindahl Kenny of Sweden. She said Education must be the key focus for any development and the youths will take the country forward. She also lauded the role of Dhaka University in the language movement and in advocating freedom of expression.
The Vice Chancellor of University of Dhaka, Mr. S. S. Arefin Siddique, thanked the Nordic Ambassadors for choosing Dhaka University as the venue for this grand event. He emphasized the cooperation that exists between Nordic countries and the University and also hoped for further collaboration. He concluded with a tribute to the martyrs of the language movement and the freedom fighters.
Addressing the inaugural session as the Chief Guest, Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni praised the support of Nordic countries in development cooperation and business investments. She identified that opportunities exist in waste management and renewable energy sectors encouraging B2B programmes to establish long term business partnerships. She also highlighted the achievement of Government in various sectors.
The inaugural session ended with a presentation of diplomatic cables of recognition of Bangladesh to Foreign Minister Dipu Moni by the Ambassadors of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
The inaugural session was followed by a seminar on Governance chaired by Professor Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission. Panelists included Norwegian Ambassador Ragne Birte Lund, Professor Rawnak Jahan, Barrister Sara Hossain and Mahfuz Anam.
The Norwegian Ambassador pledged that the Nordic nations are committed to support and assist Bangladesh towards good governance, democracy and human rights.
The Governance seminar was followed by an interactive session on “Role of Business in Nation Building” chaired by Arild Klokkerhaug, President of Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh (NCCI). The session started with a brief introduction by the panelists. The panel consisted of Danish Ambassador Svend Olling, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (BFWE) President Rokia Rahman, IBA Professor & Institute for Policy, Advocacy and Governance (I-PAG) Chairman Syed Munir Khasru and Rahimafrooz Group Director Munawar Misbah Moin.
Rokia Rahman provided a broad picture of how businesses grew after Independence. She said that the SME have contributed significantly towards growth. Women Entrepreneurs are moving forward but they are restricted with capital are in need of new projects and diversification. She praised the RMG sector for enabling women with social and economic power.
Danish Ambassador Svend Olling described the positive contributions and cooperation Denmark has extended to socio-economic development of Bangladesh. An economy supported by direct foreign investments was highly encouraged by the Danish Ambassador.
He said Bangladesh has a lot to offer in term of strategic position, low-cost production/labour, and high quality workforce. However, Bangladesh needs to focus on three factors that are hindering growth and development in the form of corruption, lack of adequate infrastructure & energy and the political instability in the long run. The government and opposition should join hands to address these problems. He further added that the local companies need to build a competitive advantage and make specific business proposal rather than being open for any kind of investment. Telling the true and full story to the people will help the nation to grow further. On a question from the audience on nation branding, he said, “it will not come from cultural exchanges but from three words, Made in Bangladesh.”
Munawar Misbah Moin explained how local family owned businesses have contributed towards growth of Bangladesh. He said investment from the private sector have grown continuously and never took a dip in the last 20 years. He added that in chaos there is opportunity and the Government should implement right policies sector by sector to ensure growth. He also praised the farmers for being disciplined and believes that technology will drive the agriculture sector in future.
Answering a question from the audience, Syed Munir Khasru stated that in a recent survey only 1% of youth wanted to become an entrepreneur, addressing the Government to take necessary steps to encourage the younger generation. Responding to query on FDI, he drew comparison on FDI inflow between Myanmar and Bangladesh. He believes that Myanmar will be a serious competitor in the near future. He strongly stated that Bangladesh needs to come out of the product mystification and should develop itself as a service-oriented country.
All the speakers agreed that Bangladesh should enhance the business climate through adequate training of youths, infrastructure development and IT connectivity. In paper, Bangladesh has the best policies and investment incentives. But policies don’t matter, if it is not in practice.
40 years of recognition of Bangladesh was celebrated with around 500 participants; mainly teachers and students from universities, members of civil society, members of Nordic Chamber of Commerce, Nordic nationals residing in Bangladesh and media representatives.