A few years back private sector development was going fast together with the government's speedy development work. Unfortunately from March 20 due to the pandemic some sort of stagnancy gripped the private sector development - which is prevailing throughout the world.
Right now the Covid-19 pandemic is a major obstruction, though many projects started to get going in full swing maintaining hygiene norms and the government is monitoring well.
This observation was made by Nurul Qayyum Khan, President of Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA), and also President of Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Association in an interview with the Financial Express recently. Excerpts of the interview are as follows;
FE: Covid-19 affected the world in every sector. How can we face the situation now?
Nurul Qayyum Khan (NQK): Yes, Covid-19 has affected the ICD sector, since it handles nearly 90 per cent export and 25 per cent import of the whole National economy.
FE: What is the effect of Covid-19 on your business?
NQK: In the months of May and June the Chittagong port was overflowing with import / export containers. There were no space for unloading import containers and there were long queues of vessels at the outer anchorage. At that time PMO/ NBR / Chittagong Port allowed removal of import containers direct to off- docks from the hook. The off- docks showed their capabilities and within 15 days they brought the whole port situation to normal from a disastrous situation. I myself as a president of BICDA is indebted to ICD owners who took up this enormous challenge of decongesting port. I also appreciate the pragmatic decision of the NBR, port, and above all the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). With deep gratitude I remember our 10 brothers who died during those crucial days since we always work 24/ 7 as an extended port.
FE: What are the challenges you face in the business right now?
NQK: Now the temporary decision has been withdrawn by NBR. We are handling 39 items. Presently we the ICDs are in a very bad shape due to a drastic fall in the volume and revenue. Export and import volumes are decreasing due to Covid-19. We have written to the NBR chairman urging him to add more import items to the off-dock handling list.
FE: What is your vision of the business in this sector?
NQK: Though ICDs are priority sectors as the services sector, unfortunately it is in the circular only. Moreover we find many unrealistic clauses which make it difficult for ICDs to comply with. Though we need more ICDs because of prohibitive terms, shortage of bank loans, high interest rate, scarcity of land we did not see any new ICD after 2007/8. So I request authorities to be pragmatic regarding the ICD sector that handles 90 per cent export and 27 per cent import involving nearly Tk 30 billion (3000 crore) and creating jobs for 10,000 people directly.
FE: What is the state of the use of latest technology like prefabricated steel in the sector?
NQK: That is modern technology for building bridges and it is economically viable for getting fast result. The pre-fab factory building concept is becoming popular day by day.
FE: How will you evaluate the backward linkage industries in the sector and do you think there exist opportunities still untapped?
NQK: The backward linkage factory has a big scope in our country. A - Z, every manufacturing unit needs backward support to run their production. For example, a car assembly plant doesn't make tyres, a garment factory needs many accessories, a plastic industry or cycle industry has to use many components from other sources.
FE: Construction is a big sector that can change the face of the country. How much are we ready for that in view of the global perspective?
NQK: Definitely we are ready to meet the global standard. I cite a single example, that is the Padma Bridge which proves what this government can do.
FE: The government plans to build villages like urban areas. That offers a great opportunity for businesses like yours. What is your opinion?
NQK: The plan is wonderful for poverty alleviation and job creation.
FE: Please tell us about how you got into the business and founded your business venture. What is the way forward?
NQK: After finishing my Master's all on a sudden, I entered business with Tk 10,000 as capital. I worked very hard to stand on my own feet but always tried to remain honest. I am a moderate business man and always try to maintain some ethics and principles which I inherited from my parents. If one is sincere, dedicated, industrious and keeps faith in Almighty Allah, he never fails, though obstruction and misery come in every forward step.
FE: What is your vision of the sector?
NQK: Bangladesh will become developed country soon everything goes normal.
FE: Do you have any suggestion for the policy makers?
NQK: I feel there is a lack of coordination in different sectors. Many of us are prone to corruption and dream of becoming rich overnight. These attitudes should be minimized, though I believe percentage of businessmen like this is very few.
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