Economic diplomacy for Digital Bangladesh

Economic diplomacy for Digital Bangladesh

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on August 11, 2009

DIGITAL Bangladesh is what the election manifesto of the present government had pledged. The people elected the AL-led alliance for implementing its pre-election commitment and not for explaining what is digital Bangladesh. Digital Bangladesh is not an impossible goal to achieve. To digitize Bangladesh needs a series of reforms in almost every sector. It should be easier for the government, enjoying more than three-fourths majority in parliament, to go for the reforms. The government has to utilize the opportunity to fulfill its vision 2021.

To begin with, the government has to give legal validity to e-documents and e-mail and e-communication. It requires processing all files, barring the confidential ones, online, so that an applicant can know from the website, in what stage of processing is his or her file, or who is doing it now. All government ministries, agencies and divisions have to be transparent to root out corruption. It would require massive reforms.

But without economic development, digital Bangladesh would not be sustainable. For economic development, foreign policy has to stress on economic diplomacy. To get a strategic platform to exploit the coming multilateral regime, Bangladesh has to prioritise country promotion, trade promotion, attract investment and utilize and obtain technology, besides managing better external economic assistance.

For attracting foreign investment Bangladesh needs to project a positive image of the country abroad. Branding Bangladesh would be essential, as without a brand image it would not be easy to get foreign investment. The government should promote the country at abroad, which is a primary action of economic diplomacy. The image of a country affects its trade, global politics, and international relations.

Economic diplomacy has to promote Bangladesh to mobilize investment, promote tourism and better manage national image. Investment mobilization would call for a global presence of the competent companies or internationalization of the local companies. Bangladesh has to develop its tourist spots and their infrastructure to attract foreign tourists. For projecting a positive national image abroad, the political leaders have to be responsible about what they say regarding the country. They should know that the world media report what they say. Their statements can and do damage the image of the country. A good image would need promotional activities in the world media.

Foreign relations, bilateral, regional or global, can be affected by ‘country image’. The foreign ministry, the embassies and diplomats of the country are responsible for the projection of a ‘correct’ image of Bangladesh abroad. But their capacity to project a positive country image or change the undue negative perception is limited. The diplomats abroad have to be proactive rather than reactive. The foreign ministry has to give importance to promote business abroad by promoting trade fairs, investors’ conferences and dialogues between Bangladeshi and foreign investors. The missions abroad have to be facilitators of joint business councils between Bangladesh and other countries.

A positive national image can better promote Bangladesh products and services abroad and help create a brand image of the country’s products in the consumers’ mind. It would facilitate better market access. Salesmanship, networking and regulatory management would facilitate the export of commodities, services and projects. Value creation of products is essential.

The missions abroad have to identify the demand for Bangladesh products in the host country market and facilitate interactions between their importers and Bangladeshi exporters to promote export to that country.

A leading least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh should go for economic diplomacy to attract foreign investment.

It needs technology for rapid development and industrialization. When TRIPS agreement will come into force on us, then absorbing foreign technology will be highly costly and difficult to achieve.

Before the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) comes into force to make technology costlier, Bangladesh should concentrate on obtaining it (technology) for industrialization.

Industrialization would need infrastructure development, better utility services and other logistics support. All these require money. The government has to mobilize resources from domestic as well as foreign sources. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Aid for Trade to the LDCs, could be a good source. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, financing Indian solar electricity generation project, can also be approached.

Newer opportunities created by globalization should be availed of, in order to achieve progress as other nations did in the previous decades.

The decision-makers must be pro-active rather than re-active in their action. Despite having otherwise promising potential to grow, Bangladesh continues to lag behind its competitors for missing out the opportunities and because of indecision of the policy makers. 


Published by

Md. Joynal Abdin

Development Researcher, Columnist and Author

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