The US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) was established in 2019 with the objective of investing in the sectors of energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure and technology in developing countries. The US Congress gave DFC approval to invest USD 60 billion (USD 6000 crore) in various countries. However, the state of the environment, human rights and labour rights is first taken into consideration when investing in any country.
The USAID deputy administrator arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on her first visit to Bangladesh. During her five-day trip, she has met with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and state minister for disaster management and relief Enamur Rahman. She also visited Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char and spoke to the Rohingya there.
At the press briefing on Wednesday, when asked about USAID funding for the construction of embankments in the coastal region of Bangladesh, Isobel Coleman said she had several talks with Bangladesh about this issue. USAID funds surveys. We no longer fund infrastructure development projects, she said, adding that other organisations of the US government, like DFC, provides such funding.
Isobel Coleman said, it was not possible for DFC to carry out its activities here due to concerns about labour rights in Bangladesh. Until these areas of concern about labour rights are not resolved, DFC will not be able to work here. She said, we hope the Bangladesh government resolves these issues and gives us the opportunity to work here. We are prepared.
When asked in which areas of labour rights was the US concerned, the USAID mission chief in Bangladesh Kathryn Davids Stevens said, we have concern over free functioning of trade union, the right to assemble and safe work environment. While the conditions in readymade garment factories have improved, there are still deficiencies in other sectors.
The issue of challenges ahead for Bangladesh regarding labour rights and work environment were also raised by the US ambassador. Speaking on Tuesday in Dhaka at the US-Bangladesh Business Forum, US ambassador Peter Haas said in 2013 the US suspended GSP facilities for Bangladesh due to concerns over labour rights and workplace environment. Meanwhile, the European Union has said that after Bangladesh emerges out of the Least Developed Country category, whether Bangladesh will continue to receive special trade facilities or now, will depend on the areas of concern in labour rights.
At the US-Bangladesh Business Forum discussion, Ambassador Peter Haas said, these areas of concern are depriving Bangladesh of huge investment from the US. DFC works with US business establishments on developing projects in the sectors of energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure and technology. DFC could have been an ideal source of project funding for Bangladesh. Unfortunately, until Bangladesh wins back its eligibility for GSP, it will not be considered for DFC funding. We hope that Bangladesh soon makes progress in the areas of labour rights and safety at the workplace. By this means, Bangladesh will fast gain eligibility to receive DFC funding and will be able to attract more trade and investment from the US.