Jim McCabe of StanChart talks about real potential of the nation as he shares his experience about London summit
The recently-held FinanceAsia Bangladesh Investment Summit in London has effectively portrayed to foreign investors what the country has to offer despite the confrontational politics and major industrial tragedies, a co-organiser said.
“It turned out to be a fantastic experience. Hundreds of very interested investors showed up,” Jim McCabe, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bangladesh (SCB), which sponsored the summit, told The Daily Star in an interview last week.
The event, which presented the trade and investment opportunities in Bangladesh, was a follow-up to the summit held in Singapore last December — and he says it was a bigger success. “The topics in the panel discussions were deeper and even better than those in the Singapore summit.”
“Afterwards, so many people called me. I hope they will continue their interest and visit Bangladesh to explore the investment opportunities in person.”
“When we were planning for the summit, we had no idea that there would be serious political protests or the tragedy of the Savar building collapse.”
McCabe said SCB and FinanceAsia considered postponing or even cancelling the event in London because “the mood might not be positive”.
“We admitted that it was a risk,” he said, while acknowledging that it was a risk worth taking as the fundamental purpose of the summit was “very sound”.
“People are interested and do not want the summit to be hijacked by insisting on just one question of political stability. This summit was about Bangladesh’s future 10 to 20 years from now, and its potential then, which is very real.”
When asked what he specifically tells potential foreign investors about Bangladesh, he said: “Everybody has problems, but despite that Bangladesh has been able to forge a consistent performance for 10 years now — that sheds light on its underlying strength.”
The fact that the country’s economy has grown at approximately 6 percent a year is something to be hailed.
“I talk about the stable, unchanged rating the country has had over the last four years — that does not happen all the time around the world.”
“I also tell them that Bangladesh is the best client that many development agencies have. It is responsible and reliable, and it complies and repays. It has never defaulted on its loan to anybody.”
Regarding the political turmoil of the past six months, the SCB chief said that it “will pass” as it is a “process of development, politics and democracy”.
“Sometimes the roads are bumpier than you like it to be, but it is still a road going in that direction. It costs something, and we all know it. Hopefully, the process will improve.”
McCabe said the Rana Plaza collapse has had a knock-on effect around the world and brought on more “compliance, rigour and review” in many businesses.
“It caused so many people to rethink and reconsider what they do, how they do and who they do them with. The tragic losses of lives did not go in vain — it has created very large benefits for the humanity.”
SCB has advised the central bank on the issuance of the country’s first-ever sovereign bonds to raise $500 million, and McCabe thinks the bank has done a “very good job”.
Regarding the timing of the issuance, he said it is a decision that the prime minister and the finance minister would have to make, and they are well-equipped for it.
McCabe, however, does not think the issuance would take place at present. “I can guess it might be done a little bit later.”
Regardless, a solid foundation has been laid for the sovereign bond to prosper.
“The macroeconomic scenario is strong and consistent. There is lot of reserves and the currency is strong. The rating agencies have given stable ratings to Bangladesh for a number of years. So people are interested.”
He reserved special praise for the country’s private sector and its “resilience and ability to grow and develop the economy” in the face of various upheavals.
McCabe said he thinks the rest of the year would be exciting and challenging, and that a “fair and transparent” election would be held at the end of the year or early next year.
“In the meantime, everybody goes to work everyday and produces something. The country keeps on going. We are there to support and work with our clients on a daily basis, to help them out as best as we can. That is our job.”
Source: The Daily Star