Vol. 5 Num 293 Thu. March 24, 2005  

Local businesses see export boost on Singapore interest

As more Singaporean companies have expressed their interests to invest in Bangladesh particularly in joint venture projects, local business leaders hope that exports will see a boost in the coming years.

Business leaders expressed their views after returning from Singapore. A 16-member business delegation accompanied Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during her three-day official visit to the city state from March 20-22.

Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have signed three agreements with Singaporean companies to increase knitwear, potato and gasohol exports there.

"The visit has worked as an image building mission for Bangladesh. It will help increase Singaporean investment here and our export to their market in the coming years," said Md Fazlul Hoque, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

A Bangladeshi company has already inked a deal worth $ 1 million with a Singaporean company to export knitwear products, Hoque said.

Another agreement was signed between AR Links Group of Rokia Afzal Rahman, RR Group and Kulong International (Singapore) on potato export from Bangladesh.

"We can export more to Singapore. I hope three more joint venture projects will be set up here," said Selima Ahmed, president of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was a member of the business delegation.

Singtel, a Singaporean telecom company, is also planning to invest here, she said observing that the visit will increase Singaporean investment in Bangladesh substantially.

Besides, a Bangladesh-Singapore joint venture is going to produce gasohol, a type of ethanol known as green energy, which is likely to reduce the cost of petrol. Molasses, known as 'cheeta gur', a byproduct obtained from manufacturing sugar from sugarcane, is the 100 percent raw material of gasohol.

The production and marketing agreement of gasohol was signed between Nitol-Niloy group of Bangladesh and Far East Distillers PTE Ltd, a Singaporean company, on March 22 during the recent visit.

Selima, also the vice-chairperson of Nitol-Niloy Group, and Ong Tze King, on behalf of the Singaporean company, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to this effect.

UNB adds: Talking to UNB on Tuesday night Nitol Group Chairman Abdul Matlub Ahmad, who was also present at the signing ceremony, said work on the project, involving Tk 32 crore in the first phase, will start within three months. The project will go into operation in one and a half years.

He said the Singapore side will provide funds, technological support as well as export market while Bangladesh will supply raw materials, manpower and other supports along with domestic marketing.

The Nitol chairman said it will save foreign currencies spent on petrol import as the new fuel is composed of 80 percent petrol and 20 percent gasohol.

Matlub said the Far East Company has a ten times bigger joint-venture gasohol project in Thailand than the proposed plant in Bangladesh.

The plant will be located in Kishoreganj near the Nitol Sugar Mills, another Bangladesh-Thailand joint venture that will go into operation within a few months.

Presently, Brazil and Thailand produce gasohol while India has just started the process, he added.