B’desh sees sharp FDI rise

Agence France Presse

Dhaka, June 12:

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh rose by 48 per cent to a record $653 million in 2004 spurred by the country’s fast growing mobile phone and energy sectors, the investment board said today. “Our records show the 2004 foreign direct investment figure is the highest in the country’s history,” said Mahmudur Rahman, executive chairman of Bangla-desh’s Board of Investment, adding he expects investment to reach one billion dollars in the next two years. Bangladesh saw rapid mobile phone growth in 2004 with 3.6 million subscribers, compared with 1.5 million a year earlier, according to the country’s leading mobile phone company, GrameenPhone. Majority stakes in the country’s top four mobile phone companies are owned by foreign companies, who have invested heavily in the past two of years to expand their networks to the remotest parts of the delta nation.

As well, US-based energy firm Unocal and Britain’s Cairn Energy stepped up exploration spending for natural gas reserves in Bangladesh, Rahman said. Bangladesh has proven recoverable gas reserves of 13 trillion cubic feet, expected to last until 2020. But development of the reserves has been slowed because the government said it wants to use the gas for internal needs and not for export to countries such as energy-starved neighbour India. “More than 50 per cent of the investment came from the mobile telecom and energy sectors. Besides, there were impressive investments in textiles and chemicals,” Rahman said.

Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries where nearly half the 140 million population lives on less than a dollar a day.