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Chamber leaders for sideline discussions on businesses
Govinda Shil

Chamber leaders said the government could have organised sideline discussions to listen to the problems the business community is currently facing in the region during the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka.
They wondered as to why the government officials did not talk to them to learn what more could be done to facilitate economic development and promote political relations among the members--- Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives.
"We have a whole lot of issues to share with the political leaders of the SAARC member countries. But I have been invited to the inaugural session only," said AK Azad, president, Bangladesh Chamber of Industries (BCI).
Azad said he was unaware if the government has taken initiatives to discuss issues hindering bilateral and regional trade in South Asia.
"Probably, this is the SAARC that lags behind all economic blocs in the world. All other economic blocs have moved much ahead," said former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Yussuf Abdullah Harun.
"We are glad that the uncertainty over commencement of SAARC is gone. We welcome it," Harun said, adding, "It looks like fighting terrorism and curbing poverty will rule the SAARC agenda."
A senior leader of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), who preferred anonymity, said he keeps on hearing about promises made by the SAARC leaders and has not seen much achievements.
"I do not understand why India is taking much longer time to acknowledge the need for duty free access of Bangladeshi products in her market. It seems to me India wants a trade off between duty free access and transit through Bangladesh territory," observed the BGMEA leader.
Rashed Maksud Khan, president of Bangladesh-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, said he has heard that many pending issues would be discussed, but asked if trade would receive priority.
"May be this is a political summit…a state matter, that is why we do not know much about the agenda," Khan said and added that sideline discussion was very much necessary to understand each other and resolve business problems.
"Being the host nation, Bangladesh could have invited trade leaders to discuss their problems. The government should have taken the opportunity to talk to business leaders. This is little frustrating," former FBCCI president said.
The leaders felt that enough time has elapsed and it is necessary not to just exchange greetings but to act now.
"Until we achieve economic integration we cannot think about a political union," said Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) president, Sayeeful Islam, criticising the graduation process of South Asian Economic Union.
He said if SAARC does not turn into an effective economic union, the organisation does not mean anything to its people.