Hifazat demands fundamentalism: German envoy

Famous German entrepreneur gave up investment plan because of red tape


German Ambassador Albrecht Conze sees 'fundamentalism' in Hifazat-e Islam's 13-point charter of demand tat the the little-known group made in a rally on Saturday, reports bdnews24.com.

He says, 'this is not the tradition of secular Bangladesh'.

"This is a people's republic. This is not a religious republic like Iran," he said on Monday speaking at a Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industries' (BGCCI) 'business lunch'.

The luncheon meeting was organised to announce its partnership with the Messe Dusseldorf GmbH, one of the largest trade fair orgainsers in the world.

The Chittagong-based Hifazat has threatened to lay siege to Dhaka on May 5 if the government did not meet the demands that include banning women appearing in public with men, a halt to setting up of statues in educational institutions and roundabouts countrywide, and punishing what they said atheist bloggers.

Referring to a German entrepreneur, he said, one of their famous entrepreneurs 'tried for years to set up something in Bangladesh and he has given up'.

"It's because of red tape."

Ambassador Conze said one needs 'a proactive stance' of making oneself 'attractive to foreign business'.

"Bangladesh has comparative advantages that many people are not aware of it in the west," he said.

The Ambassador said Bangladesh 'cannot afford to lose the steady growth'. To preserve the growth, he suggested going back to the constitution of the country, and 'to the secret of success' that is 'secular Bangladesh'.

The Ambassador said the interest about Bangladesh among German business community was 'between unchanged and growing'.

"It is certainly not decreasing."

He talked about fire safety standards in the readymade garment industries as he said Bangladesh's garment industry was on the way of becoming 'the biggest garment exporter in the world'.

"So becoming the biggest puts you to the spotlight and you must also become the best. Otherwise, you will run into far too many problems in the future."

Talking about the investment climate, he said there were 'too many lost opportunities' for Bangladesh and to avail that, he suggested 'pro-active' role of Bangladesh government.

"Investment goes where the conditions are interesting. Sometimes one must ask for investment to come, one must lure in investment."

If a major German car-producing company announces to the world that within the next 10 or 15 years, it will have 50 billion euros to spend on new factories, what will a normal reaction of a country like Bangladesh be?

"The Board of Investment would immediately look at that news, compose a delegation and send the delegation immediately to the headquarters of the company in Germany, trying to explain why Bangladesh is better place than Myanmar, eastern India, maybe western Thailand."

He, however, lamented that "the Board of Investment to the best of my knowledge has not had such an idea, has not brought about such an initiative and I think it's a lost opportunity."

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