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Envoy: Strong, modern UK-Bangladesh financial partnership can be mutually beneficial

  • Published at 09:04 am September 17th, 2021
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Rushanara applauded Bangladesh's economic goals to reach upper-middle-income status by 2031 and high-income status by 2041

A strong and modern UK-Bangladesh financial sector partnership has potential for mutual benefits, the UK Prime Minister's Trade Envoy for Bangladesh Rushanara Ali MP said recently.

"The basic ingredients already exist: Bangladeshi banks are present in the UK, and British financial services companies like HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank, operate in Bangladesh. Others, including insurance companies, are exploring the market," she added.  

Rushanara also applauded the economic goals Bangladesh has set to reach an upper-middle-income status by 2031 and high-income status by 2041.     

The British High Commission in Bangladesh recently organised a webinar titled "Bangladesh Capital Markets: A New Frontier."

Planning Minister MA Mannan attended the event as chief guest. He was joined by Rushanara Ali.

British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson delivered the welcome remarks. Deputy British High Commissioner Javed Patel and Development Director Judith Herbertson moderated different sessions.

The webinar explored the functioning of Bangladesh's capital markets and looked at how capital market reform and financial sector modernisation in partnership with the UK can support increased private sector investment and help Bangladesh achieve sustained economic growth as it enters its next 50 years.

Also, the event highlighted the need for broadening and deepening Bangladeshi capital markets and the opportunities for investors and issuers that reforms could bring.

Participants shared insights on the role of regulators, the important role pension funds and institutional investors could play, the private equity and start-up ecosystem, and the current state of the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market.

The discussion demonstrated how well the Bangladesh economy is performing relative to its neighbours and how best it can build on that success and improve its attractiveness to investors.  

HSBC Bangladesh CEO Md Mahbubur Rahman said: "Despite challenges, Bangladesh's economy has proved to be resilient with consistently high growth in the last decade and growth volatility below the regional average. With constraints to investment by the public and private sectors like power and infrastructure gradually being addressed, Bangladesh has momentum in its favour as the country graduates from a least developed country to a developing one in 2026."

Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh CEO Naser Ezaz Bijoy said, "Bangladesh is getting ripe for M&A activities on the back of a probable post-pandemic K-shaped economic recovery, consolidation of market players, and significant unrealised potential of the country. However, the scope of M&A activities is much wider than the sale of distressed assets, and can enable both private and public sector companies to unlock greater value for themselves and their clients."

Nuzhat Anwar, the International Finance Corporation's acting country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal said: "Well-developed domestic capital markets can be key to building more resilient financial systems – systems that better mobilise local currency finance from domestic and foreign investors and connect them to investments."

Srini Nagarajan, head of Asia for CDC, the UK's development finance institution, said: "Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and we believe it could emerge as one of the strongest economies in South Asia. Since 2020, it has increased its market capitalisation by over a third. The opportunities for investors and businesses are abundant, and greater coordination between institutional investors, regulators, entrepreneurs and corporates, and banks will further support capital market development in Bangladesh."

Robert Chatterton Dickson highlighted the role London can play in helping to bridge the investment needs of Bangladesh's private sector.

He said: "Private capital investment in business and infrastructure will play an increasing role in powering the next stage of Bangladesh's growth after the country's graduation from the least developed category. Developing new channels of investment finance, both domestic and international, will spur business growth and job creation."

"London, as a preeminent global financial centre and home to some of the world's deepest and most sophisticated international capital markets, can play an important part in providing Bangladesh's government and private sector with a gateway to capital markets and investors," he added.

The webinar was also attended by senior government officials and representatives from private and public sector organisations including Sultana Afroz, secretary and CEO of Public Private Partnership Authority, Prime Minister's Office; Professor Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam, chairman of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, Henry Tillman, chairman of Grisons Peak Services, Ifty Islam, chairman of Asian Tiger Capital, Fahim Ahmed, president of Pathao, Nishant Kumar, managing director of Asia at GuarantCo, Fiona Stewart, lead financial sector specialist at the World Bank, and Tarique Amin Bhuiyan, managing director of the Dhaka Stock Exchange.