Vol. 4 Num 36 Wed. July 02, 2003  

Outgoing US envoy calls for consensus on gas export

Outgoing US Ambassador to Bangladesh Mary Ann Peters has said Bangladesh must reach a consensus on gas export and regional trade cooperation for its economic wellbeing.

Terming excessive bureaucracy a breeding ground of corruption, she said the pervasive bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation could further cripple economic progress of the country.

She, however, stressed on establishing rule of law, an independent judiciary and anti-corruption commission to protect the interest of investors and commoners.

The ambassador was speaking at the monthly luncheon meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) held at a local hotel yesterday. President of AmCham Aftab ul Islam, Vice-president Andrew Fawthrop and Executive Director A Gafur were also present.

Peters, who came to Bangladesh in September 2000 as American ambassador, is leaving here shortly. Ambassador Harry Thomas will replace her.

"Bangladesh must reach a consensus on gas exports and regional trade cooperation. The export opportunities resulting from Bangladesh's fortuitous geography--between India and southeast Asia, near China, and on top of plentiful natural gas reserve -- has the potential to improve dramatically the nation's economic wellbeing," she observed.

Lauding Bangladesh's economic progress, the outgoing envoy said it reduced the budget deficit from over five per cent of GDP in fiscal year 2001 to a projected deficit of over 4 per cent in fiscal year 2003. Besides, Bangladesh floated taka and created regulatory commission in the energy and telecommunications sectors, she added.

Bangladesh's software and pharmaceutical sectors have the potential to compete globally, the ambassador remarked.

But the trademark, patent and copyright piracy still remains as a serious and growing problem in Bangladesh, she said.

Excessive bureaucracy feeds corruption, which must be controlled before Bangladesh develops as the Asian tiger, she said, adding that she believed Bangladesh is capable of becoming the same.

On the issue of contract sanctity, she said once an agreement is signed both parties are obliged to adhere to letter of intent of the contract.

"Undoing contracts signed during previous governments have done a great deal to dissuade foreign investors from coming to Bangladesh."

Expressing her dissatisfaction, she said Bangladesh could not come into a decision on a few critical issues like gas export, building container port in Chittagong and independent judiciary for the last three years.

"Given that each of these issues remains on the agenda today, we may be tempted to conclude that Bangladesh's future may end up resembling its immediate past," she lamented.