When the government proffered its Look East policy it was a refreshing and welcome change to what previously had sounded a lot of old hat. Without going deep into how the policy has fared it is evident that a lot of opportunities at fairly simple levels are there, one of which has clearly just been lost.
In terms of business a raft of Chinese products are now embellishing the shelves of Dhaka stores and showrooms, basic raw material is flooding in as is capital machinery. What goes out of the country never seems to make the headlines suggesting that the number and variations are pretty limited. And yet again the opportunity is tremendous.
China has successfully married capitalism with communism to the extent that there is something for everyone at prices they can all afford. India had reached this level many years ago before they opened themselves up to the world economy. And given that there is always going to be a market for lower priced goods there, Bangladesh, if it drives the issues hard enough and markets itself professionally, has a one in a million chance to entrench itself before China's new found bonhomie with India sets us back.
India and its global business aspirations would like nothing better than to penetrate the Chinese markets with its vast array of wide priced product range. In the way, of course, will be trade protocols that were set in due to political reasons. Bangladesh with its excellent relationship with China needs to take advantage of its most preferred nation status.
There are two types of frustrations created by the mushroom like English teaching institutes in the country. Firstly they don't get enough returns from their business and secondly the students don't get the standard of instruction that would really work. But given that the basic education levels are good Bangladesh could well have barged in to the instruction of English for the Chinese who acknowledge their lacking in this one front. There is an if though. China and India are in discussions precisely to address shortcomings such as these what with the enviable education levels and standards that India boasts of.
Can we ride a bullet and get the ducks in a row to seize an opportunity or are we destined to progress as we had before … friendship to all and malice to none! (The writer is a freelance journalist, a veteran TV news caster and a corporate executive)