Exporters seek long-term tax, energy policies

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Exporters yesterday demanded long-term and stable tax and energy polices such that they can make their future investment plans accordingly.

“We need a long-term roadmap from the government on taxes and energy prices and supply,” said Fazlul Hoque, former president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Every year before the budget, the National Board of Revenue increases the source tax on export receipts only to bring it down later following requests from businessmen or under political pressure, he said.

For instance, the government has been importing liquefied petroleum gas for supplying to the industrial units. But, it is not clear yet how and when the gas would be supplied to the industrial units, he said.

“However, it is very simple to fix the rate for the long term so that the businessmen can predict their expenditure and plan for future,” Hoque said at a roundtable on the export potential of Bangladesh.

Bangla daily the Prothom Alo and banking giant HSBC jointly organised the discussion at the newspaper’s office in Dhaka, where a minister, exporters, bankers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs spoke.

Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, echoed Hoque’s views.

He also complained about the poor state of the premier Chittagong port and airport in Dhaka.

Not only the sea port and airport, the poor state of the Dhaka-Ashulia highway is also responsible for the bad transportation system.

The truckers demand higher fares because of the rundown roads between Dhaka and Ashulia-Savar, he said.

Subsequently, he called for the highways to be expanded into six lanes as hundreds of garment factories are located on both sides of the road.

David Hasanat, chairman and chief executive officer of Viyellatex Group, a leading garment exporter, said the garment sector’s success stories should be spoken of more.

“We should also continue with the PR initiative to carve out a positive picture of the country’s successful garment sector,” he added.

The exporters of Bangladesh are responsible for not only driving economic growth but also for establishing the ‘Bangladesh’ brand across the world, said Francois De Maricourt, chief executive officer of HSBC Bangladesh.

Muhammad Shohiduzzaman, country head of global trade and receivables finance of HSBC Bangladesh, said the popularity of export through open accounts system has increased worldwide due to simplicity of the process.

Bangladesh can also adopt it instead of the time-consuming and traditional letters of credit system, he said.

Saiful Islam, president of Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), said the condition of the customs department at the Chittagong port has worsened.

Customs officials take a lot of time to scrutinise the imported goods meant for manufacturing in the factories, Islam said, adding that the Chittagong port should have a contingency plan to avoid any kind of sudden deterioration in the system.

Abu Taher, former chairman of the LFMEAB, said the global market size of leather goods is $240 billion and in a few years’ time China will be importing another $100 billion worth of leather and leather goods and footwear.

“So we have a lot of opportunity to export leather goods worldwide. We need export diversification,” Taher said.

The demand for diversified jute goods like yarn has been increasing worldwide, so the scope for jute and jute goods exports is also rising worldwide, said Mahmudul Haque, managing director of Sadat Jute Industries Limited.

“We need the government’s support to make the best of this global opportunity,” he added.

MA Mannan, state minister for finance and planning, said sometimes the government’s activities are stopped through filing writ petitions in the court.

“This is one of the major reasons for the slow progress of the government’s development projects,” he added.

Abdul Qayyum, associate editor of the Prothom Alo, moderated the roundtable.

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