Path To Recovery: Embracing Intraregional Investments In South Asia

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Path To Recovery: Embracing Intraregional Investments In South Asia

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South Asia continues to recover from the recent wave of COVID-19, with a rebound in global demand and targeted measures put in place. But the recovery remains fragile and uneven. As per the latest South Asia Economic Focus forecast, the region’s average annual growth over 2020-2023 will be 3.4%, which is 3 percentage points less than what it was in the four years preceding the pandemic.

A key part of South Asia’s recovery will be fully embracing global, regional, and local business opportunities. However, intraregional engagements in South Asia have been restrictivethe intraregional trade alone is 5% of the total trade, as compared to 60 % in Europe. Intraregional investments have been equally inadequate at around $3 billion, which is barely 0.6% of the total regional inward foreign direct investment (FDI) from the world. Post COVID-19, with disruptions in global value chains, rising trade and transportation costs, intraregional engagements and trade will be critical to providing the much-needed buoyancy to economic recovery. Further, the rising demands for goods and services within the region are creating significant opportunities for trade and investment to expand and diversify.

But within the region, restrictive and non-transparent policies, particularly outward FDI regimes, deter investments. Limited knowledge about the economic and investment landscape in the neighboring countries, and low bilateral trust further increase costs and restrict economic engagements. Knowledge connectivity, therefore, remains key to intraregional investment decisions. Despite constraints, a few pioneers in South Asia have successfully established intraregional ventures across various sectors. These pioneers tend to be prior exporters; well-networked, often with strong social and ethnic connections; and are high productivity firms with surplus investment funds.  
  
Our 8th #OneSouthAsia Conversation will share the experiences of such pioneer investor firms and explore the ways intraregional investments can be strengthened to boost robust recovery and overall economic growth in South Asia. The event, held in collaboration with IFC, will bring together WBG leadership, leading investors from South Asia, and policy makers. The event builds on the latest World Bank report Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia: The Payoff of Knowing your Neighbors, that explores the potential of intraregional investments and some understudied constraints to such investments. The report also profiles South Asian pioneer investor firms that have built successful intraregional ventures and documents their drivers and constraints. 

See the list of speakers ˅

00:00 Welcome and introductory remarks
03:47 Opportunities and challenges for intraregional investments
09:41 Intraregional investments and IFC’s overall strategy in South Asia
15:36 Pakistan supporting inward and outward-bound investments from the region
22:19 Further investments prospects for South Asia
27:09 Pakistan's specific policies and support for women investors
33:03 Restrictive policies that deter intraregional investments and how can that be changed
40:44 Main hurdles to inward and outward investments from the private sector’s viewpoint
44:11 Intraregional investments in Latin America and Africa
50:52 Introducing changes and flexibility to improve the investment landscape
53:21 Efforts from the Board of Investment for more intra-regional investments
57:19 Knowledge connectivity and the potential of social-ethnic and knowledge links
1:01:22 The role of IFC in promoting intraregional investment opportunities
1:08:15 Inland water way transport between India and Bangladesh
1:10:45 Changes in the next 12 months that could boost intraregional investments
1:14:08 Closing remarks

Read the transcript


  • 00:01 [Cecile Fruman]: Good morning,  
  • 00:03 good afternoon, and good evening to  everyone. My name is Cecile Fruman.  
  • 00:08 I'm the Director for Regional Integration and  Engagement for South Asia at the World Bank.  
  • 00:12 And it is my pleasure to welcome you to  our eighth One South Asia conversation.
  • 00:17 [Cecile Fruman]: Our topic today is Path to Recovery:  
  • 00:20 Embracing Intraregional Investments in  South Asia. This is a bi-monthly series  
  • 00:26 where we discuss issues related to regional  integration and cooperation in South Asia.  
  • 00:32 Our approach to regional integration in  South Asia has three pillars of focus.  
  • 00:37 The first is on enhancing economic connectivity,  the second on reducing vulnerability and building  
  • 00:43 resilience in particular to climate  change. And the last is human capital.
  • 00:47 [Cecile Fruman]: Today's conversation is very much related  
  • 00:50 to the first pillar of economic connectivity. And  the central question that we will be addressing  
  • 00:56 is how do we promote greater economic  engagements and investments in the region?
  • 01:01 [Cecile Fruman]: 
  • 01:02 This event coincides with the launch of our new  report which explores intra-regional investments.  
  • 01:08 The title of the report is Regional Investment  Pioneers in South Asia: The Payoff of Knowing  
  • 01:13 Your Neighbors. The report is on our event page,  and I highly recommend that you take a look at it.
  • 01:19 [Cecile Fruman]: So many of us know that intra-regional  
  • 01:23 trade in South Asia is at very low levels,  barely 5% to 6% of the total trade in the region  
  • 01:29 compared to 50% in East Asia. Yet, what is less  known is that intra-regional investments are at  
  • 01:36 equally low levels. Inward intra-regional  FDI is less than 1% of the total inward FDI  
  • 01:44 from the world. And for women-led businesses,  intra-regional investments are even much lower.
  • 01:50 [Cecile Fruman]: 
  • 01:52 So trade and investments are closely linked and  they are drivers of growth of jobs and poverty  
  • 01:58 reduction. And post-COVID 19, we believe that  intra-regional trade and investments will become  
  • 02:04 all the more important to growth and  inclusive recovery across all sectors,  
  • 02:08 and in particular in the services sectors,  which are rapidly growing in South Asia.
  • 02:13 [Cecile Fruman]: So our discussion today will focus on embracing  
  • 02:17 the potential of intra-regional investments, both  inward and outward bound, and understanding the  
  • 02:22 various constraints. And to do so, we have  an amazing panel with us today. We have Mrs.  
  • 02:28 Fareena Mazhar, she's the secretary of the Board  of Investment in Pakistan, Mr. Hector Gomez Ang  
  • 02:35 is IFC's regional director for South Asia, and IFC  is the private sector arm of the World Bank group.  
  • 02:42 Mr. Sanjay Kathuria is a fellow at the Wilson  Center, was previously for many years with the  
  • 02:47 World Bank, and he is one of the co-authors of  the report that I just mentioned. And Mr. Ahsan  
  • 02:53 Khan Chowdhury is a CEO of PRAN-RFL Group, the  largest agribusiness conglomerate in Bangladesh,  
  • 03:00 which has been expanding its operations in South  Asia, and he'll be sharing his story with us.
  • 03:05 [Cecile Fruman]: So before we dig right into topic, just  
  • 03:09 a couple of reminders, we have a poll on our page.  It's at the bottom of the page, if you scroll  
  • 03:14 down. We invite you to take the poll and we'll  be sharing the results at the end of this event.  
  • 03:20 You can also post your questions on the  page, we'll try to address a few during the  
  • 03:25 conversation. We also have two guest bloggers with  us, Mr. Gonzalo Varela, who's the senior economist  
  • 03:31 with the bank, and Mr. Ravi Yatawara, who is one  of the co-authors of the report, and they will be  
  • 03:37 answering your questions live  also as this discussion unfolds.
  • 03:41 [Cecile Fruman]: So without further due,  
  • 03:43 let me turn first to Sanjay. Sanjay, your report  makes a very strong case for intra-regional  
  • 03:50 investments, especially in this post-COVID  times. Can you tell us what the key findings  
  • 03:56 are and mostly where you saw opportunities and  the main challenges that you encountered also.
  • 04:02 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you, Sanjay. Over to you.
  • 04:04 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you, Cecile. And I'd like to thank  
  • 04:08 my co-authors, Ravi Yatawara, who you mentioned,  and Xiao'ou Zhu, for helping us and producing  
  • 04:16 this report, I think which hopefully will  provide lot of food for thought for everybody.
  • 04:21 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So in terms of the opportunities,  
  • 04:24 I'd like to start by highlighting some of  the long term trends in world trade and  
  • 04:31 world economic engagement that have actually  been magnified or accelerated by COVID-19.  
  • 04:40 One is the focus on global value chain  diversification and shifting the such value  
  • 04:45 chains closer to home. We've seen a lot of talk  about that. There is also the rising trade and  
  • 04:52 connectivity costs globally where long distance  containers, the prices have gone up from...  
  • 04:58 We know this is all over the news... $2,000 to  $20,000, $18,000, and so on. So there is a huge  
  • 05:06 and massive increase in trade costs, albeit  hopefully this will go down in coming months.
  • 05:13 [Sanjay Kathuria]: There is also the importance of services in  
  • 05:16 global recovery. We know that the global recovery  has been much more focused on the goods side,  
  • 05:21 but services have yet to bounce back to  pre-pandemic levels. And in South Asia,  
  • 05:28 the services' sector is growing and is  very important. There is also the expanding  
  • 05:34 regional consumer markets in South Asia based  on shared prosperity and strong economic growth.
  • 05:42 [Sanjay Kathuria]: And then in South Asia, there is  
  • 05:44 the potential which has been unrealized, which  is the potential for regional trade to provide  
  • 05:51 the buoyancy which is often absent in world  trade and the kind of counter cyclicality,  
  • 05:57 again, against pivoting away from world trade  focusing on the region. So I think for all these  
  • 06:05 reasons, there should be a receptivity and an  energy to explore the region deeper with renewed  
  • 06:13 motivation because the regional opportunities  have come knocking at our door again.
  • 06:18 [Sanjay Kathuria]: And in our survey, we did a survey of 1,274  
  • 06:24 firms in all the eight countries in the region,  we found actually that 65% of first investments  
  • 06:31 were actually in the region. So there is a basis  for a deeper level of engagement fueled by the  
  • 06:37 links between trade, investment and connectivity.  And from a private sector perspective, the pioneer  
  • 06:46 firms, that is firms that have actually crossed  borders in an intrepid and innovative way,  
  • 06:53 such as PRAN represented by Ahsan here. There  are expanding consumer markets which provide  
  • 07:01 different kind of demand from that which  is available in higher income countries.  
  • 07:06 There is the production efficiencies, many firms  from South Asia have kind of relocated, or have  
  • 07:13 made use of these value chains, and there are  examples in the report about investments from  
  • 07:21 India to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka to  India, India to Nepal, and so on.  
  • 07:25 There is also the issue of value change  management and brand upgrading where the  
  • 07:30 region, again, can provide a platform for  demand, for experimentation, and so on.
  • 07:37 [Sanjay Kathuria]: And then finally, from a  
  • 07:40 private sector perspective, I would say there is  also the rise of non-equity modes of investment,  
  • 07:48 including relational contracting. So the region  has afforded pioneer investors all kinds of ways  
  • 07:56 of engaging. And me and my co-authors think that  this provides possibilities for deeper engagement.
  • 08:06 [Sanjay Kathuria]: But you also asked, Cecile,  
  • 08:08 about challenges so there are all these things  that are happening which should energize regional  
  • 08:14 engagement, economic engagement, but  very briefly, what are the challenges?  
  • 08:19 Well, the first one, of course, is the  traditional lack of engagement within the region  
  • 08:24 when trading or investing. We know all about  that. But from a business community perspective,  
  • 08:31 something that we've talked about a lot in  the report, which is one of the highlights,  
  • 08:35 is the low knowledge connectivity... And I will  try to expand on that later if I get a chance...  
  • 08:41 But the average score on knowledge connectivity  between country pairs was only 1.9 versus a high  
  • 08:48 of four. So this creates a high cost  of search, matching and contracting.
  • 08:54 [Sanjay Kathuria]: From a firm capacity perspective also,  
  • 08:58 knowledge doesn't travel easily. Even if there  is a pioneer investor, the sort of knowledge  
  • 09:04 tends to stay within the group of that pioneer  investor, and it doesn't travel easily to firms  
  • 09:10 outside that conglomerate or group. So we call  it the case of the missing herd in South Asia.
  • 09:18 [Sanjay Kathuria]: And finally, from a government  
  • 09:20 and institutional perspective, there are all kinds  of restrictive outward foreign investment policies  
  • 09:28 in most countries. And hopefully, I'll get a  chance to talk a little bit more about that.
  • 09:33 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you.
  • 09:35 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you, Sanjay.
  • 09:39 [Cecile Fruman]: I'm going to turn to Hector now.  
  • 09:41 So Hector, IFC is working to promote inclusive  growth in South Asia by improving infrastructure,  
  • 09:47 financial services and supporting  the private sector. How does  
  • 09:51 intra-regional investments fit into  IFC's overall strategy in South Asia?
  • 09:55 [Hector Gomez Ang]: 
  • 09:57 Thanks. Thanks, Cecile, and thanks for the  invitation. I think this is very, very timely.
  • 10:02 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Look, I mean, maybe one thing important  
  • 10:06 about IFC is that our mission, which is to support  the private sector, it gets accomplished through  
  • 10:12 our clients, through our private sector clients.  So it really has to be what private sector clients  
  • 10:18 are doing that we are able to support. Now, we  together with the World Bank, so as a World Bank  
  • 10:25 group, we clearly have regional integration as  a top priority for South Asia, in particular I  
  • 10:33 think regional infrastructure and what we call  South-South investments, right? So essentially  
  • 10:40 companies from emerging markets investing in  other emerging markets. I think the logic behind  
  • 10:45 it is that companies in emerging markets tend to  have a higher tolerance for risk and they're more  
  • 10:50 used to the specifics of working in emerging  markets. So tho those are sort of big picture.
  • 10:56 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Now, when it comes to more detail,  
  • 10:59 I think some of the stuff that we are doing  or we are looking at are very actively it's,  
  • 11:05 I think, regional power trade. We think this  is something that makes a lot of sense in  
  • 11:10 South Asia, that it can help the energy  matrix of some countries. It can make up  
  • 11:18 for some of the deficiencies in... In  some countries you don't have either  
  • 11:22 natural conditions, or enough space, or the wind  to do more renewables, but you do have in other  
  • 11:27 countries. You have hydro in some, you have...  So I think you can play with that and build. But  
  • 11:34 to do that, you need to have a working regional  power trade sort of a structure and regulation.
  • 11:40 [Hector Gomez Ang]: So this is something that we've been working  
  • 11:43 together with the bank, but also with private  companies. So for instance, as we speak, we are  
  • 11:49 discussing with two large groups to essentially to  build a cross-border power trade by putting assets  
  • 12:00 on one side and sort of the usage on the other  side, because we believe that it's only by doing  
  • 12:09 that, then these models will be replicated.  So we are working together to support that.
  • 12:14 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think the other piece is  
  • 12:18 transport connectivity. So transport, probably  the most emblematic stuff that we're doing is  
  • 12:24 around port terminals, that would then connected  to multimodal, whether it's railways or roads,  
  • 12:31 can actually provide access to supports to  some countries. So this is the other play.
  • 12:38 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think there is,  
  • 12:40 and I'm just going to go a little bit  outside of the whole trade thing, I think  
  • 12:45 on the challenges side, part of the solutions  that we see for climate change in the region are  
  • 12:52 going to have to be regional.  That's the other piece.
  • 12:57 [Hector Gomez Ang]: And then I think on the  
  • 12:59 South-South, which is essentially supporting  companies to go to other markets, we've  
  • 13:04 been very much engaged, but I think we have a lot  of room to grow. So, I mean, I can mention some  
  • 13:12 companies, but it tends to be mostly from  South Asia going into Africa, for instance,  
  • 13:19 it's something that we've done a lot. We've done  a lot of leading Asian companies coming into or  
  • 13:24 investing into South Asia from outside  of the region, but very few actually  
  • 13:30 within South Asia. And I think this  is what we see as an opportunity here.
  • 13:34 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Some of the stuff that we think is going to come  
  • 13:36 up, and we have very high hopes that it will be  a lot of intra-South Asian opportunities. I think  
  • 13:43 one is private equity and venture capital. We have  an experience, a global experience, where these  
  • 13:50 type of investors tend to want to have sort  of a regional scope. It helps diversify risk,  
  • 13:58 it helps open up more markets. So we are really  looking into it, particularly on the tech side.  
  • 14:05 For instance, the whole play in Sri Lanka  would be around using Sri Lanka technology or  
  • 14:13 startups to actually enter the larger  markets in the region, for instance,  
  • 14:17 just to oversimplify. That's  the kind of play that we see.
  • 14:20 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Digital connectivity, we think it has to be a  
  • 14:25 regional play. I think there are some  emerging businesses that we hope that they...  
  • 14:32 because they're new and they come  without baggage to a certain extent,  
  • 14:34 that they develop in a more regional way  following the logic. But then of course,  
  • 14:39 we need to work on the enabling environment,  hopefully we can get to talk about that,  
  • 14:43 like electric vehicles, right? So  that's coming, or it's here already.  
  • 14:47 And we are hoping and working and engaging, so  it hopefully develops in a more regional way.
  • 14:52 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Housing, we believe... I mean,  
  • 14:56 it's an industry that we've seen in other  regions developing at the regional level.
  • 15:00 [Hector Gomez Ang]: And then I guess the  
  • 15:02 final one I'll mention is capital markets. So  capital markets tends to be really on a national  
  • 15:09 level. But in some agents, and I  think there is a logic to do it,  
  • 15:13 if not the operation of the capital markets but  the use of funds and companies from one country  
  • 15:18 issuing in another country, I think that's  something that has a lot of logic in South Asia.
  • 15:22 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I'll stop there.
  • 15:23 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Thank you. [Cecile Fruman]: Right, right.
  • 15:25 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you, Hector, and thank  
  • 15:26 you for articulating these opportunities and it's  quite a hopeful outlook you've portrayed there.
  • 15:31 [Cecile Fruman]: Fareena, we're going to move to you.  
  • 15:35 And it's interesting in this report, it documents  that actually Pakistan has been investing quite  
  • 15:40 a lot in the region and Pakistan's earliest  intra-regional investment goes way back to 1951,  
  • 15:46 a banking branch of the Habib Bank in Sri Lanka.  So over the years, can you tell us what has been  
  • 15:53 the trajectory of Pakistan supporting inward  and outward-bound investments from the region  
  • 15:58 and into the region? And post-COVID, do you see  any changes? What's the future going to look like?
  • 16:03 [Cecile Fruman]: Over to you.
  • 16:04 [Fareena Mazhar]: Thank you so much,  
  • 16:07 thank you for giving me this opportunity  to be talking to this forum today.
  • 16:11 [Fareena Mazhar]: I would like to say that  
  • 16:16 originally Pakistan did not have a very liberal  investment regime. They had restricted sectors  
  • 16:22 which were open for investment. But since 1976, we  opened up and we started promulgating new acts and  
  • 16:32 ordinances allowing investments in all sectors. So  at the moment we are following a liberal regime.  
  • 16:41 Then in 2013 also a policy was introduced, which  opened up all the sectors for investments, except  
  • 16:50 for agriculture, banking, I think, aviation. Other  than that, all sectors are open for the economy.
  • 16:59 [Fareena Mazhar]: So Pakistan, unfortunately, has not been receiving  
  • 17:04 the amount of foreign direct investments,  which I genuinely believe that it deserves.  
  • 17:11 Primarily, it has been a victim of terrorism.  People have been scared to come to the country.  
  • 17:21 Now, the issue is somewhat resolved. And other  than that, we did have energy shortages in the  
  • 17:28 past. So they did also have... That was an  impediment for the investors to be coming  
  • 17:34 and investing in Pakistan. But fortunately,  we've overcome both these issues. And now our  
  • 17:41 liberal investment regimes, which allows 100%  repatriation of profits and investment in any  
  • 17:49 sector without any gap regarding the minimum or  the maximum investments. And I think it's one  
  • 17:58 of the most liberal regimes in the world. And we  are hoping to get new investments in the country.
  • 18:04 [Fareena Mazhar]: Fortunately, we've not been hit by COVID as bad  
  • 18:07 as other countries, especially in Europe, and that  has not affected our inward investments in the  
  • 18:16 way it did for other countries. And we are almost  close to the post-COVID numbers right now. And we  
  • 18:25 are hoping that new investors, which have promised  us... They've asked for certain incentives,  
  • 18:33 we will be giving them those incentives  and they will also be coming to Pakistan.
  • 18:37 [Fareena Mazhar]: We have a very liberal,  
  • 18:41 special economic zones regime, which offers  a 10 years exemption on income. And also,  
  • 18:49 you can import the plant and machinery free of  duties and taxes, so these are the main incentives  
  • 18:55 in the special economic zones. Also, we have  sectoral policies to encourage our investments.  
  • 19:02 We have an electronic vehicle policy in place.  We have the mobile manufacturing policies.  
  • 19:08 And we've given massive incentives for the  export sector, providing them loans on very low  
  • 19:16 interest. And this government especially is laying  a lot of focus on the ease of doing business. And  
  • 19:25 I think everybody will be appreciating that we  improved 39 positions in the last two years when  
  • 19:32 the report on ease of doing business was there.  And unfortunately, the report discontinued this  
  • 19:41 year, we were hoping for further increases  in jump in the positions because we had made  
  • 19:47 massive reforms in that context and we had...  just to invite investors in the country,  
  • 19:54 we are trying to make all possible  facilitation measures which we can.
  • 20:00 [Fareena Mazhar]: We have a new investment law,  
  • 20:06 the draft is already there, it just  needs the approval from the parliament.  
  • 20:10 And that too creates opportunities for dispute  resolution, which we think is another going to be  
  • 20:16 a very big focus for the local and the foreign  investors, and something of interest to them.
  • 20:25 [Fareena Mazhar]: Pakistan is offering  
  • 20:33 around 180 billion is a one time emergency  cash grant to 15 million beneficiaries.  
  • 20:43 So this was the Ehsaas program of the government.  This was a major initiative in the COVID times  
  • 20:50 just to come up and meet the challenges of the  COVID and to help the poor people of the country,  
  • 20:57 especially the labor class. This has  proven to be a very big incentive for the  
  • 21:06 businesses to recover. Also, for the small  and medium companies, there's a special  
  • 21:12 finance package and a special regime for taxation  just to facilitate them come out of the COVID.
  • 21:20 [Fareena Mazhar]: So Pakistan, unfortunately, does not have a lot of  
  • 21:26 investments within the region. We do have a  bank and our another company has invested,  
  • 21:35 Soorty, in Bangladesh, in the denim manufacturing,  but we do not... We encourage their investments  
  • 21:44 outwards also. And the foreign exchange manual, it  has recently undergone a lot of changes and it has  
  • 21:53 made investments in the region, both inward  and outward, very friendly and easy to do.
  • 21:59 [Fareena Mazhar]: So this is what I  
  • 22:01 wanted to share with you on this account.
  • 22:03 [Cecile Fruman]: Right. Thank you very much,  
  • 22:05 Fareena. And I think what you described is  very significant progress and progression  
  • 22:11 and still room to grow inter-regionally clearly.
  • 22:15 [Fareena Mazhar]: Yeah.
  • 22:16 [Cecile Fruman]: Wonderful.
  • 22:17 [Cecile Fruman]: Ahsan, your company is the largest  
  • 22:20 food and beverage conglomerate in Bangladesh.  And in 2008, you opened your first production  
  • 22:26 facility in Tripura, India after the Indian  government lifted the ban on FDI from Bangladesh.  
  • 22:32 And India today is one of your largest  markets. This year you even started using  
  • 22:37 the river route to export goods to India. So  can you tell us about this experience of moving  
  • 22:43 into India and what future investment  prospects you have for the region?
  • 22:49 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Thank you very much for  
  • 22:51 giving me the opportunity to talk.
  • 22:53 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: First of all, my experience in India has been  
  • 22:55 extremely positive. And I tell you, like according  from Sanjay [Hindi 00:23:01] talk, I feel the  
  • 23:01 opportunities in the regional trade is very high.  And again, referring to Sanjay [Hindi 00:23:06], I  
  • 23:07 will say that after COVID, it's a new world in  our part of the region. I feel that subcontinent  
  • 23:13 is going to grow and COVID has given us tremendous  amount of, say, boost in terms of the consumption,  
  • 23:20 and tremendous amount of energy, and  tremendous amount of reciprocity in the region.
  • 23:26 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: So when we started, I feel that  
  • 23:31 people have a lot of stereotypes, so people  did not know what the investment in India  
  • 23:36 is going to be and whether our regulator  is going to allow. So it was very tough,  
  • 23:41 but once we were there, I feel the experience  were very positive. And I feel that  
  • 23:49 we kind of like found a new consumer  market out there. And the buoyancy that  
  • 23:56 Sanjay [Hindi 00:23:57] was talking about in  his report also, buoyancy for the world trade,  
  • 24:00 I feel that we find it in the region. If you ask  me about PRAN's experience, I would say that-
  • 24:06 [Cecile Fruman]: 
  • 24:14 Oops, it looks like we've lost-
  • 24:16 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: ... tremendous amount...
  • 24:17 [Cecile Fruman]: Oh.
  • 24:18 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: 
  • 24:19 I feel that tremendous amount of  opportunity is coming from the region,  
  • 24:23 and the buoyancy is huge. And I feel that it's  mainly a mindset game. And from the regulator  
  • 24:30 side, it is lack of understanding. And I feel  that this foreign currency manual that madam  
  • 24:35 was referring to, we had the same problem in  Bangladesh where our regulators also had to  
  • 24:40 refer and Indian regulators also had to refer to  those foreign currency manuals or the regulation  
  • 24:45 that they had, which were backed for 40 years.  And I think that Sanjay [Hindi 00:24:51] idea  
  • 24:51 is that there's a new opportunity that the  business people would like to experience.  
  • 24:55 And I feel that there is tremendous amount  of opportunity in the region if people are  
  • 25:00 just able to have an open mindset and people  are becoming a little bit outwardly in terms  
  • 25:06 of what they want to explore. I think there's a  wonderful world out there that has to be explored.
  • 25:10 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: And I think the business prospect is going  
  • 25:13 to come from our regional trade and post-COVID  buoyancy that Sanjay [Hindi 00:25:18] was talking  
  • 25:18 about through his report, I'm sure we are  going to find that in our regional markets.
  • 25:23 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Thank you very much.
  • 25:27 [Cecile Fruman]: Great. [Cecile Fruman]: Ahsan,  
  • 25:28 and any plans to expand further in the region?
  • 25:30 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: I have got too many plans, and I think my friends  
  • 25:34 in IFC and my friends in the regional market gets  very nervous when I start telling my plans. I can  
  • 25:39 tell you... So we started with Northeast part of  India. We have opened up in Eastern part of India.  
  • 25:44 We've got a factory in Calcutta, we are setting  up Siliguri. We are going to be in the south,  
  • 25:50 southern part of India in a place called Tumkur.  We are in north in Uttarakhand. And India,  
  • 25:55 I don't consider to be a country,  I consider it to be a continent. So  
  • 25:58 for a small company called PRAN operating from  Bangladesh, India is a world out there which  
  • 26:03 we are there to explore. And Nepal is also not  very far away. Thanks to the Nepal government  
  • 26:09 that they imposed almost a 100% duty on all PRAN  products coming into the Nepal, and I feel that  
  • 26:14 that was one of the best thing that could have  happened to PRAN that we were able to start up  
  • 26:19 almost like three plants in a matter of one year  in Nepal. So Nepal business is looking good.
  • 26:25 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Again, so with Taliban  
  • 26:27 coming into the government in Afghanistan,  we were exporting a lot of products in  
  • 26:31 Afghanistan, but no problem. After there  is a new change in thought in Afghanistan,  
  • 26:37 we are able to start, hopefully, the  local manufacturing, doing contracting out  
  • 26:41 with some local Afghan people and able to  have the product available for the consumers,  
  • 26:46 even in the Afghan market. And I feel that our  duty structures between Bangladesh and Pakistan  
  • 26:53 will improve after we have a chance to explain  to madam, maybe the duties will come down and  
  • 26:57 we'll be able to do more business with Pakistan  and be able to connect more and more regionally.
  • 27:02 [Cecile Fruman]: Great, Ahsan, great to see you so upbeat.
  • 27:06 [Cecile Fruman]: So, Fareena, maybe a good  
  • 27:09 segue to come back to you, what you described  is a real effort to liberalize and attract  
  • 27:16 FDI globally. Can you tell us a little bit more,  do you have any specific focus on the region,  
  • 27:22 any activities or policies? And also talk to us  a little bit about support for women investors,  
  • 27:29 women looking to bring investments into  Pakistan, or invest outside of Pakistan.
  • 27:37 [Fareena Mazhar]: As far as our policies are concerned,  
  • 27:41 they are just the same policy for everyone.  It's no specific policy for any specific region  
  • 27:49 as of now. And unfortunately, no specific  incentive for the women also. At the moment,  
  • 27:56 it's generally the same. But there's no impediment  also. We do not bar women from entering certain  
  • 28:02 services or certain sectors. So it's the same  policy for everyone, which I again say is very  
  • 28:09 liberal. It's the same regime for the local as  well as the foreign investor. Everyone, anyone,  
  • 28:16 can come and invest. The Board of Investment  serves as the one window and anyone who wants  
  • 28:23 to seek in investment opportunity, we have a  project's portal running where you have all the  
  • 28:31 listed projects coming from the government, and  they are also there with the timelines. And you  
  • 28:37 can see which sector you want to invest in, or the  amount that you can invest in. And then we take  
  • 28:43 them from there and we also follow them up for any  assistance or facilitation which they may require.
  • 28:51 [Fareena Mazhar]: And then we have these offices in the provincial  
  • 28:57 set ups, because Pakistan is a Federation, we  have a central government and the provincial  
  • 29:04 governments, and then the local governments. So we  have business regulations at three levels. It, at  
  • 29:10 times, becomes very cumbersome for the investors  to come and invest in the country. But the reforms  
  • 29:16 that we are doing in respect of these business  regulations are at all three tiers. So the Board  
  • 29:23 of Investment is working on setting up Pakistan  business portal, which is going to be a state of  
  • 29:29 the art one window stop shop for all the local  as well as the international investors. Through  
  • 29:36 the portal you can see which sector requires  which regulations, and if you want to start a  
  • 29:43 business in any particular region in a country,  what are the laws applicable there? What is the  
  • 29:51 availability of land and other usages? You  can do everything, make online payments...  
  • 29:59 So the system will be ready in a year and a half,  by June, 2023. So we are really hoping that this  
  • 30:06 will be bring a big boost to our investment regime  and will be a big facilitator for the investors.
  • 30:14 [Fareena Mazhar]: Next to that, I think  
  • 30:20 we have these special economic zones, but there  are four economic zones under the China-Pakistan  
  • 30:27 economic corridor. I'd like to mention that these  CPEC SECs are not just specific to China. They're  
  • 30:34 open to anyone in the world, any investor,  either local or foreign, they can come and they  
  • 30:41 can invest there. And the government has taken up  the responsibility of funding them with the proper  
  • 30:51 utilities, water, electricity, gas. And  it's a plug in play kind of a situation.
  • 30:58 [Fareena Mazhar]: And I would say  
  • 30:59 that this COVID where it has created so many  problems, it has also created opportunities,  
  • 31:04 and it has created opportunities in the service  sector specifically. We've seen around 500 million  
  • 31:12 investment coming just in the  startups, in the service sector,  
  • 31:15 in the country, in the first 10 months of  this year. This is a good news. And also,  
  • 31:26 since Pakistan was not that badly hit, there  are many international investors who are looking  
  • 31:31 towards Pakistan for starting their new ventures.  So we are hoping that with this new regime,  
  • 31:39 we will get a lot of opportunity  for these new investors.
  • 31:43 [Fareena Mazhar]: Samsung has recently announced that they will  
  • 31:46 be setting up a plant in Pakistan and Uniqlo from  Japan is coming over. And we already have around  
  • 31:53 1000 investors. And I would like to mention that  whoever comes to Pakistan, never leaves Pakistan,  
  • 32:00 they're quite satisfied. They get good rate  of return on the investments that they make.  
  • 32:06 But just to start off is the primary thing.
  • 32:10 [Fareena Mazhar]: And we'd really want a good mix of investments  
  • 32:14 from all over the world, not just China, but from  all over the world and especially South Asia and  
  • 32:23 this region. And we are hoping that... As of now,  the volumes are very low. The volumes of trade  
  • 32:30 and investment from these region is low. And  I would say it's basically a political reason,  
  • 32:39 which is behind this. And I hope the situation in  Afghanistan gets better, and the situation also,  
  • 32:47 because people then would be more comfortable  coming to Pakistan and making investments here.
  • 32:52 [Cecile Fruman]: Great, thank you, Fareena. And it  
  • 32:56 seems that our Ahsan's going to come knocking on  your door very soon for some opportunities there.
  • 33:00 [Fareena Mazhar]: Sure. [Cecile Fruman]: So before I go back to Ahsan,  
  • 33:03 Sanjay, can you tell us a little  bit about how this report looks so  
  • 33:08 comprehensively at the investment landscape in  the region and what you found to be the most  
  • 33:14 restrictive policies that deter intra-regional  investments? And what would your suggestions  
  • 33:20 be on what should be changed quickest and  also what incentives will this require?
  • 33:25 [Cecile Fruman]: Over to you.
  • 33:26 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you. Thank you.
  • 33:29 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So I think I will talk  
  • 33:30 both of inward and outward investment because  they are, in a sense, a part of firm strategies,  
  • 33:38 both are equally important when we  talk of intra-regional investments.
  • 33:43 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So let's start with the  
  • 33:46 outward foreign investment group, we use OFDI  shorthand. So I think there are the restrictions  
  • 33:54 on outward FDI in the region in South Asia are  strong in most countries, except India and, to  
  • 34:01 some extent, Sri Lanka. So I think our report, our  authors, all of us believe that this is really an  
  • 34:07 anachronism in today's day and age. The mindset,  which Ahsan also referred to, this is mindset  
  • 34:15 of the '70s, of the '60s and '70s where we had  issues like foreign exchange shortages and lack of  
  • 34:23 free flow of capital. We live  in a very different world today.
  • 34:27 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Let me give just some  
  • 34:28 highlights of the restrictions that we have  detailed a lot in the report, but for example,  
  • 34:35 there is lack of transparency in outward  investment regimes. So this is a big problem. So  
  • 34:42 in Afghanistan and the Maldives, for example,  there is no explicit mention of outward investment  
  • 34:47 in the national laws. In Bhutan, there is  permission needed from the Royal Monetary  
  • 34:54 authority and the Ministry of Finance to  hold foreign assets, foreign securities,  
  • 35:00 and the Ministry of Finance and Industry  regulate the establishment of business ventures  
  • 35:05 abroad. But again, there is not enough detail if  somebody really wants to start going about this.
  • 35:11 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Nepal has been a very interesting case because  
  • 35:16 there is an act restricting foreign investment  abroad since 1964, it prohibits actually outward  
  • 35:22 investment. But the Foreign Exchange Regulation  Act of 2019, clause 4A, allows non-resident  
  • 35:31 Nepalese to retain investments while earning money  abroad. And this is a loophole that has been used  
  • 35:40 to invest overseas by some Nepali investors. But  it shouldn't have to be this way, is the point.
  • 35:48 [Sanjay Kathuria]: In Bangladesh, which has been again quite  
  • 35:52 active. Apart from PRAN, many other companies  have been looking both in the region and globally.  
  • 36:00 There was a lot of restrictions until September,  2015 when the Foreign Exchange Act was amended.  
  • 36:09 And then in 2018, the government waived  mandatory permissions from Bangladesh Bank.  
  • 36:17 But even so, this was for opening just small  liaison offices. And to date, it is still the  
  • 36:25 point. The point to remember is that it is still  discretionary and the mindset does remain that we  
  • 36:32 are not in the business of outward investment  as such. It is still very much of a  
  • 36:38 inward... the whole mindset attracting  inward investment in Bangladesh not being  
  • 36:44 at the stage of a big overseas investment  player, which we think is antithetical to  
  • 36:49 where developments are taking and the  entrepreneurial spirit of Bangladeshi investors.
  • 36:54 [Sanjay Kathuria]: In Pakistan, all outward investments  
  • 36:57 are subject to approval by The State Bank of  Pakistan, which is fine. But again, there hasn't  
  • 37:04 been much happening, as Fareena also reminded us.  In terms of inward policies, now let me just come  
  • 37:13 quickly to inward policies, the problem in the  region is that actual investment on the ground  
  • 37:21 is very different from the policies that  are on paper, so devil is in the detail.  
  • 37:28 There are onerous sector restrictions that take  place. Regime look great on paper, but once we  
  • 37:34 start looking at actual investment possibilities  in specific sectors, I think things don't look so  
  • 37:41 rosy. And these, of course, affect all investment,  not just investment from within South Asia.
  • 37:49 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Let me also speak to some  
  • 37:51 specific regional aspect of inward investment. So  India has had some kinds of restrictions in place  
  • 37:59 in terms of currency and so on. But currently, the  most germane restriction in India regionally is  
  • 38:06 on those countries that share a land border with  India or where the investment in India is situated  
  • 38:14 in, or is a citizen of such a country which has  a land border with India, they need to go through  
  • 38:20 government route. That means government needs  to approve inward investment as opposed to the  
  • 38:24 so-called automatic route. This is a  sort of regional aspect of investment.
  • 38:31 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So Cecile, you asked about  
  • 38:32 what are the incentives to change? I think  this is very important today and I think  
  • 38:39 dynamic entrepreneurs, like what we have on our  panel today represented by Ahsan and PRAN, I think  
  • 38:46 they need the freedom to operate as the logic of  competitiveness. The logic of international trade  
  • 38:54 remains as strong as ever, not withstanding all  the noises globally. You need to be a part of...
  • 38:59 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So today, in order to be competitive and agile,  
  • 39:04 especially including in crisis situations such  as the ones we've faced over the last two years,  
  • 39:09 a firm must have at its command all possibilities  of imports, exports, being able to receive FDI  
  • 39:17 or engage in outward FDI. And government  policies do need to understand this.  
  • 39:25 Restrictive, yes, we understand that restrictive  outward investment policies are driven by  
  • 39:30 balance of payments concerns, but our report  argues that even for small economies and even  
  • 39:36 for those with such concerns, gradually relaxing  outward investment restrictions is important,  
  • 39:43 both from a competitiveness standpoint, as well  as for the need to be agile in a crisis situation.  
  • 39:50 And this can be done gradually as  indeed Bangladesh has started doing  
  • 39:54 slowly. But we would, of course, argue  that it needs to go beyond case by case.
  • 39:59 [Sanjay Kathuria]: There need to be some sort  
  • 40:00 of general rules whereby firms don't necessarily  need to go to the authorities for approval. And it  
  • 40:08 can be done within a framework, a macroeconomic  framework that allows appropriate reporting and  
  • 40:16 feedback mechanisms, and so on. But OFDI... So  the big point here is that outward investment  
  • 40:23 in today's day and age is as  important for firms remaining  
  • 40:28 competitive and agile in crisis and both in  normal situations, because they are two sides  
  • 40:34 of the same coin. And this is something that we  go at great lengths in the report to talk about.
  • 40:39 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you.
  • 40:40 [Cecile Fruman]: Great. Super, Sanjay.
  • 40:43 [Cecile Fruman]: So, Ahsan, can you  
  • 40:45 tell us from your personal experience, what are  some of the key restrictions that you faced in  
  • 40:50 trying to invest in the region? And  if you had your way, what are those  
  • 40:56 that you would want to see changed to  facilitate investments in the region?
  • 41:01 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: I would say the... I think Sanjay  
  • 41:04 [Hindi 00:41:04] reports has already covered  quite a bit. So one of our biggest challenge was  
  • 41:08 getting an approval from our regulators  here in Bangladesh. I think what Sanjay  
  • 41:13 [Hindi 00:41:13] also mentioned, so there's land  border issue. Since we are very close neighbors,  
  • 41:17 the approval process is a little bit  complicated that we had to face in India.  
  • 41:22 But I feel that, like I said, regardless  of whatever challenges that we have  
  • 41:26 with our regulators, I think there is a more  holistic thing behind. I feel it's a stereotype,  
  • 41:32 it's a lack of understanding that we don't  have as human beings trusting our neighbors  
  • 41:36 more than... We feel that when we want to talk  about export, let's go to North America, let's  
  • 41:41 go to Europe. That's the preconceived thinking  that people have in our part of the world that  
  • 41:46 probably doing regional trade is probably  not the most sensible thing to do.
  • 41:49 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: I think it is how people get more and  
  • 41:51 more educated. And, again, thanks to COVID that  it is training us new things for the new world.  
  • 41:58 And Sanjay [Hindi 00:41:59] mentioned about  higher container freight, and this is such a  
  • 42:02 strong reason... In order to have food security  for a small country like Bangladesh, I feel that  
  • 42:07 we have to integrate with our Northeastern part  of India neighbor that we have. It's going to  
  • 42:12 give them automatic access to our market, which is  beautiful market called Bangladesh, which is going  
  • 42:17 to change completely the agriculture landscape of  people in Northeastern part of India who do not  
  • 42:23 have any export possibilities if they don't come  into Bangladesh. And I feel that countries need  
  • 42:29 to really, really understand the requirements of  general citizens like us, that it is the business  
  • 42:36 people that have to connect because for hundreds  of years, say, our countries were the same.  
  • 42:41 We were connecting and our regional business  were backbone of our livelihood. So, Afghans  
  • 42:48 were operating in Bangladesh maybe 300 years ago,  say before our generations were in this world.
  • 42:54 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: So I feel that the time has come when,  
  • 42:56 after COVID, in order to have food security, we  have to reach out to Meghalaya, and we have to  
  • 43:01 see how we can use the land-man ratio of Meghalaya  to see how we can feed the Bangladeshis because  
  • 43:08 Australian grain and Canadian grain is not able  to reach us during COVID because the freight  
  • 43:12 prices are shot up so high, and inexpensive  imports coming in from China will not be able to  
  • 43:19 feed the requirements of a great nation called  India. So I feel that it's the neighbors like  
  • 43:24 us which will reach out to bigger markets  like India. And it's also, it is the rule  
  • 43:30 of the economy will start playing. And I think the  rules of the government will have to play a role.
  • 43:34 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: And government will have to look into bigger  
  • 43:38 things rather than trying to restrict its nations  or citizens to do business among ourselves,  
  • 43:43 and we have to go back 300 years ago and we have  to do more business with our regional neighbors.  
  • 43:49 And I would say that that is how the world was,  and we have to go back to the world because  
  • 43:54 it's a post-COVID new world out here. So it's  just a chain that is coming into the world today.
  • 43:59 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Thank you. [Cecile Fruman]: Yeah. Thanks, Ahsan. I think really  
  • 44:02 that important point that it's as much as about  mindset as it is about policies and regulations.
  • 44:07 [Cecile Fruman]: So on this topic, Hector, I'm going to turn  
  • 44:11 back to you. You've had the opportunity to serve  in other regions. You've worked in Latin America  
  • 44:18 and Africa, and both are regions that actually  have higher levels of intra-regional trade and  
  • 44:23 investment. What makes those investments more  attractive in those regions? And what are some  
  • 44:28 of the lessons that we could draw for South Asia,  any experience that you want to bring to bear?
  • 44:32 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Thanks. Thanks, Cecile.
  • 44:36 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Just a note to maybe  
  • 44:38 agree with Sanjay on the importance of the outward  regulation or investments. And then I guess the  
  • 44:47 other point that Ahsan mentioned it, it fits right  into my view. On the regions I work, I worked  
  • 44:55 in Latin America, in Africa mostly... But maybe  just taking a step back, the report that Sanjay  
  • 45:01 and colleagues... so they identify there are three  or four main things, which I think were pretty  
  • 45:07 much summarized just now, which is there's a lack  of trust generally between countries. There is a  
  • 45:14 lack or low market knowledge. Then there's poor  infrastructure that tends to be in all countries,  
  • 45:18 it's not a privilege of South Asia. Protected  markets and very unfavorable FDI regimes.
  • 45:25 [Hector Gomez Ang]: So if you look through that lens,  
  • 45:27 which I think is a very good framework  to look into the other regions...  
  • 45:32 For instance, you come to Latin America... And  I don't want to paint here that Latin America,  
  • 45:37 it should be the poster child. But I think  regional integration is a journey, and probably  
  • 45:44 Latin America is a little bit ahead. That's how I  would put it. I think there is more knowledge and  
  • 45:52 trust among countries for historical reasons, for  language reasons, because these countries became  
  • 45:58 independent 50, 100, 150 years ago. So there's a  longer process. I think that's one big difference.
  • 46:06 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think the other is,  
  • 46:07 these are countries generally in  Latin America that are very...  
  • 46:11 How can I put it?... They have very low tariffs,  so they have slowly used to trade with each  
  • 46:17 other and trade with the U.S., which is the big  gorilla in the region, and with Europe as well.  
  • 46:27 So they've been very much open to FDI. And there  are very few restrictions to outward investment,  
  • 46:34 this is the other key piece in Latin America.  There are very few countries that actually  
  • 46:38 have some sort of restriction to where their  
  • 46:43 companies invest. I think the fact that in  Latin America you've had multinationals for many  
  • 46:49 decades also creates a different sort of  a competitive [inaudible 00:46:55], right?
  • 46:58 [Hector Gomez Ang]: And if you look at how this has played out is  
  • 47:02 I think it also has to do with the type of  products that Latin America produces. So it's  
  • 47:07 big on mineral resources. It's big on agricultural  resources that by nature are tradable and you need  
  • 47:13 to have an international view to this. But  also, there are a lot [inaudible 00:47:18],  
  • 47:19 right? So Latin America has really become  a region that in many cases it manufactures  
  • 47:26 very little of what it consumes and it  exports services and it trades services. So  
  • 47:32 this has created, for instance, some phenomena  that we as IFC have actually supported, which is  
  • 47:37 banking. So banks in Latin America, you have  the Brazilian Banks have expressive presence  
  • 47:43 in the rest of Latin America. The Colombian Banks  have a very relevant presence in Central America.  
  • 47:51 So banking following local companies and  taking advantage of sort of free regulations.
  • 47:58 [Hector Gomez Ang]: But this is a process,  
  • 48:00 if we having this conversation 20 years ago,  you would see that most of these countries  
  • 48:05 would be basically looking at the U.S. In the case  of Mexico, for instance, they would be looking at  
  • 48:09 U.S. And even a country like Mexico there is still  80%, 85% of its trade is really with the U.S.  
  • 48:17 They just cannot diversify away. It's a process.  So I think that's one lesson in the sense that  
  • 48:26 the items identified by the report  which we're mentioning, the trust,  
  • 48:32 the knowledge, the [inaudible 00:48:37]  FDI regimes. I think that's one.
  • 48:39 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think in the case of Africa, it's a complete  
  • 48:42 different play in my view. First of all, it's  many countries. So in South Asia you have, to a  
  • 48:49 certain extent, a very small number of countries.  But in Africa, one of the paradox is that you have  
  • 48:54 a lot of countries, but it feels like they have  a more cohesive approach to regional integration,  
  • 49:00 like it's a priority for most of them. So it  is from the policy perspective, but [inaudible  
  • 49:06 00:49:06] also many of the businesses only makes  sense if you look at them on a regional basis.  
  • 49:14 And this is what we've been supporting. So if  you are a, I don't know, telecom infrastructure  
  • 49:19 company building towers, your business only  achieves the economies of scale that you need  
  • 49:24 if you go into one, two, three, four, 50 markets  in Africa, right? And I think this is playing.
  • 49:29 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think the other piece is,  
  • 49:30 there is a lot of mineral resources or natural  resources in Africa, and that attracts a certain  
  • 49:35 type and looks. I think the other piece is that  politically... So yeah, politically, I guess,  
  • 49:44 or diplomatically, there's a much more concerted  effort around pushing for trade integration,  
  • 49:51 and this shows. A lot of what we do in Africa  actually has a... We as IFC that we support...  
  • 49:57 has a regional bend because this is what  companies or private companies are doing.
  • 50:03 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think I would,  
  • 50:05 maybe to leave with a message, that it is a  journey. And this journey is actually take by  
  • 50:13 companies like PRAN and others, right? These are  the guys that looked at it and you say, "Yes,  
  • 50:19 there are challenges, but they're manageable."  Or, "We can find a way." And this is how  
  • 50:24 things... And I think the trust is built by  looking at a company, like PRAN or like others,  
  • 50:29 that actually does it, is successful, and that  encourages others to follow. And of course, I  
  • 50:34 think on the public sector and other authorities,  this needs to be facilitated and enabled,  
  • 50:40 but it is these examples and I think we need more  of in South Asia to really create these dynamics.
  • 50:46 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I'll stop there.
  • 50:47 [Cecile Fruman]: Thanks, Hector.
  • 50:49 [Cecile Fruman]: And that's a great segue for my next question  
  • 50:51 for you, Ahsan. So what do you see as the role  for firms like yours or business associations,  
  • 50:57 chambers of commerce, to actually encourage  more of this intra-regional investment? And  
  • 51:02 are there any regional business organizations  that have a role to play in your view?
  • 51:07 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: I think we all have a role to play.  
  • 51:10 I think our chambers, we need to understand our  business prospect of the regional connectivity and  
  • 51:16 how we can do more business with the region. But I  feel that, I want to refer to what Mr. Hector had  
  • 51:21 to say, I think it's a journey. It's a journey  where people need to learn, our regulators need  
  • 51:27 to learn, our business people need to learn, and  our trade bodies also need to learn. And this is a  
  • 51:33 case of where you guys in IFC and World Bank, you  can start doing advocacy, which you are currently  
  • 51:38 doing like so you made this beautiful paper,  and Sanjay [Hindi 00:51:45] has done a great job  
  • 51:45 at it. So I feel that you are doing a good job,  are doing an advocacy. And I see an explanation  
  • 51:51 that what can be the upside of regional  integration can be, how many jobs it can create?  
  • 51:58 How it can change the lives of millions of people  who are in the region? How the agriculture can be,  
  • 52:05 say, impacted? How the case of integration  can be logically understood by everybody?
  • 52:11 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: And I think it's a journey  
  • 52:12 that is not going to reap rewards in one day,  like say that our diplomatic affairs have  
  • 52:20 hurt our intra-regional business so much that  there is a lot of work that needs to be done.  
  • 52:25 But again, if we have certain success stories,  and say we are too small to be declared as one,  
  • 52:32 but I think we are in a journey. And  once we succeed in the journey...  
  • 52:37 People ask me that whether I have had a wonderful  experience of operating in India or Nepal, I feel  
  • 52:43 that one day PRAN will be a bigger company than  what we are in Bangladesh, and we'll call India  
  • 52:48 to be our largest market, because they deserve  it, because it's a country of a billion people.
  • 52:52 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: So I feel that this journey that we  
  • 52:54 are on and this journey that we have started...  The business people have started the journey,  
  • 52:58 regulators have started understanding the concepts  and the benefits of our regional integration.  
  • 53:04 And I feel that the COVID has really,  really taught us a good lesson.  
  • 53:07 And I feel that once we are in the journey,  and I think we will see light at the end  
  • 53:12 of the tunnel and we'll do more and more in  terms of regional integration in days to come.
  • 53:16 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Thank you.
  • 53:17 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you. Thanks, Ahsan.
  • 53:19 [Cecile Fruman]: Fareena, maybe  
  • 53:21 in the same spirit, is there any effort  amongst boards of investments in the region  
  • 53:26 to try to coordinate efforts, work together  to support more intra-regional investment?
  • 53:32 [Fareena Mazhar]: On this, I would say that, unfortunately,  
  • 53:38 I don't think there is any coordination with the  board of investments or the investment promotion  
  • 53:43 agencies within the region. And primarily, I  think SAARC can play an important platform and  
  • 53:50 provide a platform for doing that. We can take  it up from the SAARC's platform. We do have some  
  • 54:01 liaison with Bangladeshi Board of Investment,  BIDA. And also their... the export  
  • 54:08 processing [inaudible 00:54:09] zone,  BEZA authority. So we shared one of our  
  • 54:16 consultants from JICA, she was also a consultant  to these boards. So she arranged our meetings with  
  • 54:24 them. So we tried to share experiences and they  had some questions for us and we had for them. But  
  • 54:29 it's not a kind of a formal setup or a formal  engagement. It's more of an informal thing.
  • 54:35 [Fareena Mazhar]: But I think, yes, there is a need to have a formal  
  • 54:39 setup and know the concerns of the investors from  within the region, why they are reluctant to come  
  • 54:47 invest or do business in the region. Whereas  we all see that I think the East Asia, Europe,  
  • 54:56 America, they're all good examples where people  with similar cultures, with similar backgrounds,  
  • 55:03 they feel more comfortable going to another  country which is to just across the border,  
  • 55:08 or very close by. And they usually have  families there and relatives there too.  
  • 55:15 But unfortunately, no such mechanism exists as  far as the South Asian countries are concerned.
  • 55:21 [Fareena Mazhar]: However, for the Central Asian republics,  
  • 55:25 we are kind of engaging with their investment  promotion agencies, and we might have an agreement  
  • 55:36 amongst them so as to formalize an arrangement  where we could meet regularly and discuss issues  
  • 55:44 and share experiences. The prime minister of  Pakistan has visited these countries, two of them,  
  • 55:51 Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and he also took a  business delegation with him. And the feedback  
  • 55:57 from the people who were accompanying him is  very positive, and they say that there is a lot  
  • 56:04 of opportunity, especially they are energy rich  countries and Pakistan is energy short country.  
  • 56:13 They can provide us with energy at a  good reasonable rate, which we need. And  
  • 56:20 also, other similar tastes, similar customs and  situation in Afghanistan. One unfortunate part  
  • 56:29 is that we do not have land border with  the five countries of the Central Asia.
  • 56:34 [Fareena Mazhar]: But if the situation in Afghanistan is stabilized,  
  • 56:40 then we are thinking of having a railway track  all the way through them to Kazakhstan. And  
  • 56:47 I think from there onwards, there will be a lot of  
  • 56:50 opportunity for the business and  investment which will be created.
  • 56:54 [Fareena Mazhar]: With Sri Lanka, we do have a free trade agreement,  
  • 56:58 but the investment chapter of that agreement  is still under discussion. And we are still  
  • 57:06 finalizing the modalities relating to that.  
  • 57:10 And I think with Sri Lanka also,  we can have this arrangement.
  • 57:15 [Fareena Mazhar]: Thank you.
  • 57:16 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you, Fareena.
  • 57:18 [Cecile Fruman]: Sanjay, one of the aspects of this report  
  • 57:22 that I found particularly interesting is how you  develop this concept of knowledge connectivity,  
  • 57:28 how knowledge about the investment landscape  influences key decisions. Tell us a little  
  • 57:33 bit more about this and where do you see the  potential of knowledge links to be tapped?  
  • 57:39 And I'll ask you to be brief because we're  reaching the end of our time together.
  • 57:42 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Sure.
  • 57:45 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Yeah, so indeed knowledge  
  • 57:47 connectivity is one of the things where I think  our report has broken some ground, new ground. So  
  • 57:54 let's just unravel what it means to begin with.  Knowledge connectivity refers to how well firms  
  • 58:00 know the economic and investment environment in  another country. So if there is a poor knowledge  
  • 58:06 connectivity, then there are high information  costs and costs of economic engagement. If there  
  • 58:12 is good knowledge connectivity, then it reduces  the sunk costs. You have to incur fixed costs  
  • 58:19 of entering in any other country, and it reduces  the costs of doing that by reducing the frictions  
  • 58:26 of searching, matching, and contracting. So,  our report documents the different strategies  
  • 58:35 used by these regional pioneers within South Asia  to reduce entry costs and facilitate their entry.  
  • 58:42 And there are multiple ways in  which they have been doing that.
  • 58:45 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So, for example,  
  • 58:48 it's own learning, a firm can learn through its  own experience. So it can start by exporting  
  • 58:55 through non-equity arrangements. This experience  helps the firm to then go on to become a bigger  
  • 59:05 investor in the future. Firms  can learn from other pioneers,  
  • 59:10 so this is the information spillovers.  And it works best within a business group.  
  • 59:16 And I spoke earlier about how outside the business  group, information doesn't [inaudible 00:59:22].  
  • 59:23 Firms can also learn or develop through its  own social networks, and we found case study  
  • 59:31 evidence of this that every single case study  that we had in the report... We studied about 10  
  • 59:37 in some detail... all the pioneers had  a ethnic or social link to the first  
  • 59:44 outward investment destination. And this,  in the case of services investments, this  
  • 59:50 actually presence of a network matters even more  than productivity improvements in its home base.
  • 59:59 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So what do we conclude from this?  
  • 01:00:02 And I think this will go back to what Fareena was  just saying, information is a public good and,  
  • 01:00:10 therefore, it requires a public intervention  to make up for deficiencies in this. So the  
  • 01:00:18 addressing, for example what we call sticky  knowledge where knowledge doesn't flow easily,  
  • 01:00:23 or the case of the missing herd, but despite  regional pioneers, there has not been a herd  
  • 01:00:29 phenomenon in investment. So, what can policy  makers do is to take an integrated approach to  
  • 01:00:38 international engagement. And in fact, in the  report, many of the things that we've mentioned  
  • 01:00:44 do not... I think they are a bit different  because they do not entail large fiscal outlays,  
  • 01:00:50 incentives, and so on. No. We are talking about  focusing on connectivity, knowledge connectivity,  
  • 01:00:57 digital connectivity, but they could have  a positive impact on FDI. So I'll give-
  • 01:01:09 [Cecile Fruman]: Sanjay, I'm not hearing you anymore.  
  • 01:01:16 So while we wait for you to come  back, I'll just turn to Hector.
  • 01:01:21 [Cecile Fruman]: So Hector, one thing we've  
  • 01:01:24 heard is everyone has a role to play in all of  this. Where do you see IFC supporting an effort to  
  • 01:01:32 work with business organizations or other  key knowledge players in this space?
  • 01:01:37 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Okay. Thanks, Cecile.
  • 01:01:41 [Hector Gomez Ang]: 
  • 01:01:43 Look, I think a little bit of what Ahsan  mentioned, I think a lot of our role here is,  
  • 01:01:49 it's advocacy. I mean, we will invest, we will  support, we will finance, but there're not as  
  • 01:01:55 many opportunities as we wish there would be. So  I think what we've done is it's a lot of advocacy  
  • 01:02:02 that falls into different buckets. I mean, very  quickly, there is one thing that we're doing which  
  • 01:02:06 is, we used to informally provide advice to our  clients, the potential clients, like if you're  
  • 01:02:13 going to Africa, you could do this, or this, or  that. We have actually created a business line  
  • 01:02:18 around it, so we actually provide formal advisory  and help companies identify partners, identify  
  • 01:02:24 investors to go from one country to another  particularly. So we've done this successfully in  
  • 01:02:33 all the regions. We have a pipeline in South Asia  and we hope that one year from now, we will be  
  • 01:02:41 implementing some of these opportunities,  and then we could also invest.
  • 01:02:45 [Hector Gomez Ang]: But the initial piece is,  
  • 01:02:46 it's advice, it's helped them... Bangladeshi  company wants to go into Africa into way  
  • 01:02:51 East Africa, so we know, we are there, we  invest, we know them, so... That's one piece.
  • 01:02:56 [Hector Gomez Ang]: The second piece, I think,  
  • 01:02:57 is a more classical IFC World Bank approach, which  has been, it's helping governments on investment  
  • 01:03:06 climate advisors, which you know very well. So,  helping them with FDI regulatory frameworks,  
  • 01:03:14 both inbound and outbound, and partnering with  investment promotion agencies to help them really  
  • 01:03:20 to maximize the impact that they have, and to  try to create sort of a positive trend. So we are  
  • 01:03:27 now together co-hosting with BIDA, with  the Bangladesh International Investment  
  • 01:03:35 Summit. So this is something that happens at  the end of November, which we expect it becomes  
  • 01:03:40 a tradition and it signals the need to have... We  hope that intra-regional plays a big part of this.
  • 01:03:48 [Hector Gomez Ang]: And then I think we are doing a lot of, I think,  
  • 01:03:53 and a more... taking two, three steps back...  we've been doing, as IFC, as World Bank group,  
  • 01:03:58 to actually what we call Country Private Sector  Diagnostics. So we look at a country and we look,  
  • 01:04:03 these are the gaps that are needed for the private  sector to develop. And when you look at those  
  • 01:04:07 reports, that hopefully provide a roadmap for  reforms that the government can able to increase  
  • 01:04:13 private sector participation. Many of them are  related to [inaudible 01:04:17] trade, or opening,  
  • 01:04:18 or FDI. So it's a combination of these things. I  think we need to keep it dynamic, some years we'll  
  • 01:04:25 need to do more of that, some years you need to do  more of those. but until we have enough pipeline  
  • 01:04:32 that we can say, "Okay, we don't need to do a lot  more advocacy." But I think we are far from there.
  • 01:04:36 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you. Thank you, Hector.
  • 01:04:39 [Cecile Fruman]: And I think Sanjay's back. So back to you, Sanjay.
  • 01:04:42 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Okay.
  • 01:04:47 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Can you hear me?
  • 01:04:48 [Cecile Fruman]: Yes. Yes, we can Sanjay.
  • 01:04:53 [Cecile Fruman]: Oh, now we can't. You're on mute. You're on mute.
  • 01:05:00 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Okay. Yeah.
  • 01:05:03 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So I was saying that  
  • 01:05:07 there are approaches to address sticky  knowledge and the missing herd phenomenon  
  • 01:05:13 in South Asia. And I think I was going  to give a couple of examples that let's  
  • 01:05:18 say smaller countries in South Asia can target  affiliates, global affiliates of large firms,  
  • 01:05:24 that have already made the investment of coming  into South Asia. So for example, there is a huge  
  • 01:05:32 presence of German companies in India. So  instead of courting these German companies  
  • 01:05:38 in Bonn or Berlin, they could easily come to  India and target and court these companies. So  
  • 01:05:45 they have already incurred the knowledge  and sunk costs of learning about South Asia.  
  • 01:05:50 So this is a very fruitful approach  which countries in the region can employ.
  • 01:05:55 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Similarly,  
  • 01:05:57 courting high visibility foreign investors is  important, because such firms engage for a long  
  • 01:06:04 term and they can attract follower investors.  Again, that knowledge spillover just by the  
  • 01:06:10 fact that they're there in the region, others  will get attracted. And these firms can attract,  
  • 01:06:15 can afford high sunk costs. So I think they  are, again, fruitful for countries to pursue.
  • 01:06:23 [Sanjay Kathuria]: In the report, we also identify cross-border  
  • 01:06:27 information enhancing and network development  activities, which are distinct from traditional  
  • 01:06:32 connectivity. For example, supporting industry and  business associations, industry meetings. But with  
  • 01:06:41 a focus, not in the way that it is normally done.  It is including cross-border women's networks.  
  • 01:06:49 Industries should tap on industry  veterans who have already succeeded  
  • 01:06:54 in penetrating neighboring countries. There is  a treasure trove of information and knowledge  
  • 01:07:01 which is inside those heads of those  industry veterans which can be tapped on.
  • 01:07:07 [Sanjay Kathuria]: So I will just end by saying that one has to take  
  • 01:07:12 both the governments and the public agencies, have  to take an integrated approach and realize that  
  • 01:07:20 in today's day and age, we can't really start  differentiating inward investment, outward  
  • 01:07:27 investment or traditional connectivity and digital  connectivity. Because digital connectivity,  
  • 01:07:33 as Ahsan has reminded us again and again about  the post-COVID opportunities, it's all part of  
  • 01:07:40 the same international engagement strategy. So  if countries and public agencies start thinking  
  • 01:07:47 in this integrated way, actually they will  have to focus less on those fiscal incentives,  
  • 01:07:53 spending large parts of their GDP in attracting  companies, and focus instead on these efficient  
  • 01:08:00 ways and working together with the region and go  on this journey, as Hector has also reminded us.
  • 01:08:08 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you.
  • 01:08:09 [Cecile Fruman]: Great. Thank you, Sanjay.
  • 01:08:11 [Cecile Fruman]: And before we do our final  
  • 01:08:13 round of questions, Ahsan, there's a question  for you from one of our viewers, Prasant Sharma,  
  • 01:08:20 and this is more on the trade side, less on  the investment, but I think it's still really  
  • 01:08:23 relevant. The question is, what has been your  experience and the initial gains that you have  
  • 01:08:30 achieved with using the inland waterway  transport between India and Bangladesh?  
  • 01:08:36 Also a topic that we at the World  Bank are very interested in.
  • 01:08:40 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Waterways transportation is the future because I  
  • 01:08:44 feel that waterways is reducing the cost manyfold.  Just to tell you, our transportation cost between  
  • 01:08:52 India and Bangladesh will come down to 10%. And  please understand, today if you're spending 100,  
  • 01:08:58 our cost of reaching India will be 10 if you are  able to use our waterways in a very scientific  
  • 01:09:04 manner. But still, we have got a lot of work to  be done. And we, private sector, will do the work  
  • 01:09:10 that needs to be done because government has  given us the policy to export products from  
  • 01:09:15 Bangladesh to India through the riverine route  which was connected the hundreds and years ago,  
  • 01:09:21 we are able to connect to West Bengal.  We are not able to connect to Assam,  
  • 01:09:24 so I hope we'll be able to connect to all the  Indian states, especially in the coastal states in  
  • 01:09:31 the Southern part of India, Western part  of India, and Eastern part of India.
  • 01:09:35 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: So we should be able to take a  
  • 01:09:37 small liner vessel from Bangladesh, and we should  be able to call on all the Indian ports because  
  • 01:09:42 our history says that we have to do more with  the land border connectivity that we have,  
  • 01:09:49 and also with the riverine connectivity that we  have. But we have to reduce our cost of labor  
  • 01:09:55 to unload. And we just have to work on  our port infrastructure. And believe me,  
  • 01:10:00 Indian exporters can also export to Bangladesh  at a nominal rate because, thanks to COVID again,  
  • 01:10:06 that after COVID, we have been able to improve our  train connectivity between Bangladesh and India.  
  • 01:10:11 So our cost of transportation has come down  thanks to the crisis that Bangladesh and India  
  • 01:10:18 became closer through our train connectivity.  And I hope with the riverine connectivity,  
  • 01:10:24 our exporters in India can reach to Southern part  of India, Southern part of Bangladesh, and also  
  • 01:10:31 anywhere in Bangladesh at  a very, very nominal cost,  
  • 01:10:35 and the cost will come down to 10% from the  current prevailing cost that is pretty high.
  • 01:10:40 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Thank you very much.
  • 01:10:41 [Cecile Fruman]: Great. Thank you, Ahsan.
  • 01:10:43 [Cecile Fruman]: So final question to all the panelists, and you  
  • 01:10:47 have the minute each, so that's really a rapid  fire, if there's one change you would like to  
  • 01:10:52 see in the next 12 months to support greater  intra-regional investments, what would it be?
  • 01:10:56 [Cecile Fruman]: Fareena, let's start with you.
  • 01:10:57 [Cecile Fruman]: You're on mute, Fareena.
  • 01:11:03 [Fareena Mazhar]: Yes, yes. Yes.
  • 01:11:04 [Fareena Mazhar]: So I really think that an investment seminar  
  • 01:11:08 along with a business to business interaction  amongst the regional countries of South Asia  
  • 01:11:14 would be really, really very helpful to boost  investments and business opportunities between  
  • 01:11:22 the people of these countries because I  see that there's a lot of misinformation.  
  • 01:11:26 There have been a lot of changes in the rules,  regulations, which are constantly not marketed  
  • 01:11:32 the way they should be. So this will provide  an opportunity where people and the government  
  • 01:11:38 levels, and also the businesses will know what  opportunities exist in which part of the country.
  • 01:11:44 [Cecile Fruman]: Right, wonderful. More information...
  • 01:11:46 [Cecile Fruman]: Ahsan, what would your wish be?
  • 01:11:48 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: My wish would be two wish. I think  
  • 01:11:52 one for the government from all the sides, I feel  the government needs to understand the benefits of  
  • 01:11:57 regional trade. I think if the governments,  
  • 01:11:59 they understand their business prospects  there, I think it could be good.
  • 01:12:02 [Ahsan Khan Chowdhury]: Private sector, like say I think we should  
  • 01:12:05 see the broader picture. The regional business is  good for the private sector and that's how we can  
  • 01:12:11 help our businesses. And I feel that if government  understand and the private sector understand, we,  
  • 01:12:16 private sector have to be the one to be the strong  driving force for our regional connectivity and  
  • 01:12:21 regional business. So I think a little bit more  understanding from our side will be very helpful.
  • 01:12:27 [Cecile Fruman]: Great. Thank you, Ahsan.
  • 01:12:28 [Cecile Fruman]: Hector?
  • 01:12:29 [Hector Gomez Ang]: Well, maybe since  
  • 01:12:32 Ahsan asked for two things, I'll ask for two  things as well. So one is, I think... I mean,  
  • 01:12:38 we would really like to see many more examples  
  • 01:12:42 of private companies doing this. I think that's  going to drive the dynamics, as Ahsan puts it.
  • 01:12:47 [Hector Gomez Ang]: I think the other piece,  
  • 01:12:49 maybe not in a 12 month but in a 12 to 24 months  to see, it's kind of a regional investment forum  
  • 01:12:57 that has a really regional sort of approach,  that is business to business, as Fareena puts it,  
  • 01:13:04 where we discuss. So to try to grow the  trust, which I think is an important thing.
  • 01:13:09 [Cecile Fruman]: Super. Thank you, Hector.
  • 01:13:12 [Cecile Fruman]: Sanjay, final words to you.
  • 01:13:14 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Thank you.
  • 01:13:15 [Sanjay Kathuria]: Yeah. So I think it would  
  • 01:13:18 be too unrealistic to expect the governments to  remove all outward foreign investment regulations,  
  • 01:13:25 but I think signaling their intention  to do so right away within a timeframe  
  • 01:13:34 to start that journey. I think right now it's  not even on the radar of most countries that  
  • 01:13:40 there is big opportunities right here at our  doorsteps. So signaling that it's important,  
  • 01:13:46 and beginning that journey of actually starting  to dismantle outward investment restrictions,  
  • 01:13:53 I think would be a great step to capitalize  on all these opportunities that are,  
  • 01:14:00 as Ahsan has eloquently reminded  us, that are at our doorstep.
  • 01:14:04 [Cecile Fruman]: Right. Thank you, Sanjay.
  • 01:14:07 [Cecile Fruman]: So we are reaching the end of our time together.  
  • 01:14:11 This has been an incredibly rich conversation.  I want to thank all of our panelists. It would  
  • 01:14:17 be a tall order for me to summarize, but  I'm going to just tease out a few messages.
  • 01:14:22 [Cecile Fruman]: First of all, I think this  
  • 01:14:23 has been an upbeat conversation. I think we all  recognize that we're starting from a very low base  
  • 01:14:29 in South Asia, but other regions have shown the  way, we have lessons that we can learn from them.  
  • 01:14:36 And I think I heard many of you also say that  COVID actually can be an opportunity, this has  
  • 01:14:42 created a greater momentum for change and greater  momentum for intra-regional trade investment.
  • 01:14:48 [Cecile Fruman]: Second point is,  
  • 01:14:52 we know that there are restrictive policies, there  are restrictive regulations, and there's also  
  • 01:14:58 the mindsets, right? This is a lot about everyone  stepping up their game and creating these networks  
  • 01:15:08 of knowledge, of connectivity and boosting  these investments through changing mindsets.
  • 01:15:16 [Cecile Fruman]: Everyone mentioned that this is a journey,  
  • 01:15:19 it's not going to happen overnight. And as Sanjay  reminded us, even in the next 12 months that this  
  • 01:15:25 will be a progressive approach. And then finally,  that everyone here has a role to play, right?  
  • 01:15:31 The private sector is the main actor, they're the  driving force. They can also be the driving force  
  • 01:15:37 for change and advocating. Governments have a role  to play in creating this enabling environment for  
  • 01:15:44 investments. And then organizations like ours,  IFC and World Bank, have a role to play on the  
  • 01:15:50 knowledge side, but also supporting private  sector actors, governments in their changes  
  • 01:15:57 and business organizations. So there's clearly  a lot that we can do together on this agenda.  
  • 01:16:02 But generally, feel upbeat. I can see that there  are many, many opportunities for the future.
  • 01:16:09 [Cecile Fruman]: So let me read out our poll results.  
  • 01:16:14 We asked all of you, what is the main constraint  to intra-regional investment in South Asia? And  
  • 01:16:20 37% of you said that restrictive FDI investment  regimes is the main constraint. So obviously,  
  • 01:16:27 there's still work to be done there. And that is  followed by low levels of trust amongst countries,  
  • 01:16:32 25%. Lack of financing, 22%. And then finally,  knowledge and networking gap. So I think that  
  • 01:16:40 gives a good temperature of what people think  and where the efforts will lie in the future.
  • 01:16:47 [Cecile Fruman]: I would like, before we close,  
  • 01:16:49 to thank all of you who've joined us  today, all of our audience. We've had  
  • 01:16:54 an interactive session. A lot of questions  have been answered by our expert bloggers,  
  • 01:16:59 Gonzalo and Ravi, so thank you for that. Thanks  for your questions and thanks for those responses.
  • 01:17:04 [Cecile Fruman]: I want to thank this wonderful panel, Fareena,  
  • 01:17:08 Ahsan, Sanjay and Hector. Thank you for joining us  today and for such a rich conversation. And a big  
  • 01:17:14 shout out to my team, there's a lot of work that  goes on behind the scenes to put on these events.
  • 01:17:20 [Cecile Fruman]: We have a short survey on our page,  
  • 01:17:23 you can also use the QR code, we're asking  you to respond to four quick questions,  
  • 01:17:28 and this will help us make our  One South Asia conversation  
  • 01:17:31 better. We're also asking you to tell us what  topics you're interested in for the future.
  • 01:17:36 [Cecile Fruman]: So with this, I'll bring this  
  • 01:17:38 event to close. I want to thank you all for being  here today. Also, our shout out to, and thanks to,  
  • 01:17:46 our colleagues from conference services who  help a lot with the these events. We'll see  
  • 01:17:51 you in two months and continue to interact with  us. Please use the #OneSouthAsia. We also will be  
  • 01:18:00 [inaudible 01:18:01] this event and you'll have an  opportunity to interact with us on social media.
  • 01:18:05 [Cecile Fruman]: Thank you all very much and see you soon.

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