In an interview with the Dhaka Tribune’s Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, Summit Group Chairman Muhammed Aziz Khan discussed the organizations plans for Bangladesh’s power and energy sector. Forbes recently listed Aziz Khan as the 34th richest man in Singapore, with business capital of $910 million
What makes Summit Group so successful in the power sector?
I personally feel the most important thing for becoming successful is credibility and good will. Summit has been able to establish that credibility, and received support from multilateral agencies such as World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), General Electric (GE) and Mitsubishi.
Technological ability is another crucial factor, and Summit has grown in this regard.
In meeting the demand for electricity, where does Bangladesh stand today? How can we reach the target?
This is a very broad question, but one of the biggest challenges for Bangladesh is that we need to import electricity. We will see how the government and the people handle these imports.
Initially, it has gone extraordinarily well. We have been able to move to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at a very fast pace compared to the rest of the world, and are taking measures for clean and environmentally friendly energy sources faster than other nations like India.
Will the imported Liquefied natural gas (LNG) be price competitive?
Price is dependent on the people’s ability to purchase. It is a matter of demand and supply as well as per-capita income.
Bangladesh’s per-capita income has increased to $1,750, so the people can afford much more than they could before. Hopefully, the increasing purchasing power of Bangladesh citizens will be able accommodate the higher prices of imported LNG.
What are Summit’s plans for power generation in Bangladesh?
Electricity is one of the most important parts of infrastructure,so I feel very proud to be associated with the power sector of Bangladesh.
By 2030, the Bangladesh government wants to generate 40,000MW electricity. To reach this target, Bangladesh has to make additional investment of about $40 billion.
Summit is working with the government and we would like to supply 20% of the country’s electricity. As a result, we wish to invest about $6 billion in the power sector of Bangladesh.
The supply of electricity in Bangladesh has increased, but quality of transmission is not up to the mark. Do you think transmission and distribution should be left to the private sector?
Yes, I do think that the transmission and distribution of electricity should be in the hands of the private sector. The government can use the private sector’s experience and the increased competition to improve power generation.
Summit Group wishes to be listed in the Singapore Stock Exchange. What is the purpose of the listing?
We are investing all of our money in Bangladesh. I think Bangladesh is one of the best investment destinations in the whole world today. We have offered the Government of Bangladesh $3 billion investment through a joint venture with Mitsubishi and GE. The money we intend to raise from the Singapore Stock Exchange is also destined for Bangladesh.
Why not list in Bangladeshi stock markets?
The stock exchanges of Bangladesh are among the smaller ones in the world, whereas the money required by the country is among the highest. In order to accommodate the requirements of Bangladesh, Summit Group is trying to be listed in Singapore Exchange Ltd.
Do you have plans to invest in port development?
Port capacity is one of the fundamental constraints to the expansion of Bangladesh’s exports and imports. I believe the government is taking the right stepsby developing the Matarbari project, Payra Port, other deep sea ports, as well as by expanding the Chittagong Port.
In addition to our electricity businesses, we are also working to support the Chittagong Port Authority, and have already invested in major infrastructure at ports, as well as in fibre optics.
Bangladesh government is offering Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the private sector. Is this an area you wish to invest in?
We have invested in some hi-tech parks but not in any economic zones yet, though this is an area we are interested in. However, we do not have any plans to run an economic zone.
Bangladesh has targeted the earning $5 billion from ICT exports by 2021. Is this possible?
If you had asked 30 years ago whether it would be possible to earn $30 billion from RMG exports in a year, the answer would probably have been no. However, we now earn $30.61 billion from RMG exports per year.
Bangladesh has a population of about 160 million people, who are mostly young and hard working. Furthermore, the government has taken steps to promote the ICT sector and set up hi-tech parks. So it is definitely possible to meet the ICT export target.
What is your advice for new entrepreneurs?
My advice for new entrepreneurs is “learn about your business and be a critical thinker.” Don’t start a business in a sector just because other businesses have done well there. Understand the business and work from your own perspective. I practice the same thing myself, and I am very lucky to have become successful, and the principles of sincerity and accountability helped me achieve this position.
Forbes recently listed you as the 34th richest man in Singapore. Is the wealth statement accurate?
The statement is accurate, but I think the value of Summit Group as a whole is higher than what is mentioned in the report by Forbes. We will continue to invest in Bangladesh, to make the country’s economy vibrant and help it reach developed country status.