Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken reiterates Norway’s commitment to support Bangladesh on Rohingya crisis
Challenges like corruption, bureaucracy and red tape deter investors in investing in Bangladesh, Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken said, placing emphasis on reducing complexities in doing business to attract more investment.
In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune at her office, the envoy described the current relationship between Dhaka and Oslo as very good, saying that the countries have been partners since the independence of Bangladesh.
She also talked about different issues of mutual interest, including the Rohingya crisis, Grameenphone, business climate, RMG sector, blue economy and diversification of Bangladesh’s export basket.r
“Corruption is a major challenge. And bureaucracy and red tape prevail in every step,” Bleken said when asked about the reasons behind Norwegian investors’ reluctance to do business in Bangladesh.
“Investors ask us questions regarding doing business in Bangladesh. It takes a long time to complete the procedures to do business. The process should be made much easier to attract more Norwegian investments,” she said, stressing the need for improving the business climate.
On the Rohingya crisis, Bleken reiterated Norway’s continued support for Bangladesh on the issue both financially and in the international arena, while at the same time, expressed fear that this crisis was not going to be resolved any time soon.
As a part of the international community, Norway will continue putting pressure on Myanmar so that it takes the hundreds of thousands of its people back home, said the envoy, who has been serving in Bangladesh since September 2016.
Any repatriation should be voluntary and sustainable, Bleken said. In the meantime, the Rohingyas should be allowed access to livelihood and education, she added.
Bleken expressed optimism that the “trouble” regarding Grameenphone, whose majority shares are owned by Norwegian company Telenor, will be solved amicably.
Grameenphone is now in a bitter row with the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) over unpaid taxes and fees.
“We hope the issues will be solved amicably, as agreed between Grameenphone and (the) finance and ICT ministries. Solving this problem is in the interest of Bangladesh,” she said, pointing out its connection with attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh.
Asked if she is happy with the current trade volume between the two countries, which stands at $310 million, the ambassador said that it could have been better.
“The bilateral trade is now in favour of Bangladesh. In the last year, Bangladesh exported goods worth $250 million, mostly ready-made garments, while the volume of import accounted for $60 million. Bangladesh needs to diversify its export basket to export more to Norway,” she added.
About the condition of RMG factories and workers’ rights in Bangladesh, Bleken said the country has made significant progress, but more needs to be done.
In response to another question, she said Norway can help Bangladesh on blue economy and mentioned the visit of a specialized Norwegian vessel named Dr Fridtjof Nansen to Bangladesh in August 2018 to survey fish stock, biodiversity and the amount of micro plastics in the Bay of Bengal.
The marine vessel will visit Bangladesh again in 2021, the envoy added.
Norway can also help Bangladesh in ship recycling, she further said.