Dutch pvt firms keen to invest in Bangladesh

Envoy envisions broader bilateral ties
M Azizur Rahman
The Netherlands has aimed at changing its approach towards Bangladesh from a ‘traditional development partner’ to an active ‘trading counterpart’ to boost productive sectors, business and knowledge exchange.

“Currently we have a rather traditional development programme with a focus on social sectors. We aim to change this to a programme with more emphasis on productive sectors, trade and knowledge exchange,” the Netherlands ambassador to Bangladesh Alphons JAJMG Hennekens told the FE in an exclusive interview.

The bilateral relationship will become more diverse and will foster a broader range of partnership, particularly in the private sector, he said.

Growing interest from the private sector of Netherlands to do businesses in Bangladesh is acting as a catalyst for changing the outlook.

Private firms of the Netherlands are keen to get involved in businesses of shipbuilding, infrastructure development, river dredging and in the ailing energy sector in Bangladesh.

They already showed interests to involve themselves in construction of the country’s largest US$ 2.4 billion multipurpose Padma Bridge, especially in river training and relevant dredging works.

“I think the Netherlands private sector has a lot to offer for construction of the Padma Bridge including river training, which requires dredging,” said the Dutch envoy in Dhaka.

He said the Netherlands has special expertise in river dredging.

They have helped develop major projects such as the Palm Island in Dubai, added the ambassador.

In the past, the Dutch companies were involved in river training work in Bangladesh for the Jamuna bridge.

“Currently there is a great interest from Bangladesh for dredgers built by Dutch companies. These companies belong to the world’s top dredger-builders,” said Mr Hennekens.

A joint venture between a Dutch and a Bangladeshi company is now building three dredgers for the government of Bangladesh.

The government has taken up an ambitious plan for dredging rivers, which raised demands for dredgers both from the public and the private sectors in Bangladesh, and opened the windows of opportunity for involvement of Dutch companies.

The envoy of the north-western European country has also spelled out his country’s potential to help Bangladesh build the planned and much needed deep- sea port.

Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe with sophisticated traffic management system. The firms which constructed it can assist in the development of the new deep-sea port, he said.

“The Port of Rotterdam acts as the gateway to Europe and has strategic partnerships with ports all over the world to assist them in port development,” said Mr Hennekens.

The Netherlands’ energy companies, that include world’s leading infrastructure builders, are also closely monitoring developments in Bangladesh’s energy sector and are looking forward to business opportunities here, he added.

Pointing out steps to strengthen bilateral relations Mr Hennekens said his country has already started introducing such partnerships through the ‘Water Mondiaal’ programme in delta-management.”

One of the major benefits of this programme for Bangladesh is the exposure to innovative and climate change-tolerant water management practices in the Netherlands and around the world, he said.

“Over the next two years we will lay the foundation of new ways of working together,” said Mr Hennekens.

Currently trade links between the two countries are relatively modest and mainly skewed towards Bangladeshi exports than that of the Netherlands.

Bangladesh exported goods worth 381 million Euro in 2009, while the import value was 70 million Euro.

“It is evident that the Netherlands has a structural trade deficit with Bangladesh, which is common for Bangladesh with most Western markets,” he said.

The Netherlands mainly imports readymade garments, and exports machinery, transportation products and chemicals.

“We see an increased interest in Bangladesh for the maritime sector in the Netherlands. Dutch companies are highly specialised component producers relating to the shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh,” he said.

Dutch private investment in Bangladesh is also modest.

“An important reason for this low investment is the poor image of Bangladesh in the Netherlands,” said the Ambassador.

Bangladesh is seen as a country suffering from natural disasters, poverty, corruption, and a thorny investment climate.

“The more positive side of Bangladesh, namely its considerable economic growth over the past decade, is not the first thing which comes to mind when people think of Bangladesh,” he said.

The Netherlands embassy, however, tries to present a more balanced portrayal of Bangladesh.

“We focus on positive elements Bangladesh has to offer. We inform Dutch investors directly by simply taking up the phone or participating in seminars in the Netherlands, and we are in close contact with the business support organisations,” Mr Hennekens said.

The website of the embassy www.netherlandsembassydhaka.org clearly mentions business opportunities and challenges in Bangladesh.


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