Financial Express (FE): What is the present state of the steel sector in Bangladesh?
Alihussain Akberali (AA): Bangladesh's steel sector is booming with a lot of development work taking place in the country. Large projects have been undertaken by the government and if this is maintained, the government will get huge revenues through their utilisation and payment of taxes. A large number of people will get jobs. The standard of living will improve.
FE: What are the challenges you face in the business right now?
AA: Bangladesh is a business-friendly country and there is no impediment to running our business. But, we get frustrated only when we go for genuine refund of Tax and VAT, exemption certificate, interpretation of laws, genuine allotment of khas land by any river or within our industry and removal of obstructions to industries in the event of import tariff on raw materials and finished goods. We face unusual delays. There should be a high-powered committee under the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) or National Board of Revenue (NBR) or under Ministry of Commerce consisting of members from all relevant ministries. But there is nothing like it.
FE: Do you have any demand or recommendations to the policy makers/government to aid smooth growth of the sector?
AA: Industries which are large contributors to the public exchequer should be heard to find out the hurdles they face. Once in three months such meetings should be held to remove all genuine hurdles to business.
FE: Please briefly say how you got into business and founded your business venture. What is the way forward?
AA: Our late uncle Mr. Taherali and our father late Mr. Akberali with his two other brothers founded our steel group in 1952. We are continuously in the development mode. We saw 110,000 tonnes of production in 2007 and now we are producing 1.6m tonnes of rods and in two years our production will reach 2.4m tonnes. We are also planning to set up another steel plant of 1.5m-tonne capacity and a 200mw solar power project with our own finance without selling power to the government. If we are given necessary quick support that we need seriously, investment in these two projects would be to the tune of about Tk. 70 billion (7,000 crore) creating employment for nearly 2,000 workers and staffs. Annual savings of foreign exchange from the steel plant will be approximately USD 600 million or more.
FE: What is your vision of business in this sector?
AA: The vision is simple. We want to add value to our economy and build Bangladesh as a vibrant country. We can do miracles if our companies are not treated as local ones and if we are shown the same respect as foreigners get in our country.
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