Myanmar-Bangladesh medicine diplomacy
By: Sufian Siddique
New Horizons for Profitable Investments Manufacturing an essential adjunct to healthcare is important in any case. Because people’s lives are directly related to this wonderful product. Medicines play a direct or indirect role in ensuring the well-being and well-being of people by getting rid of human diseases and alleviating anxiety and restlessness. Therefore, medicine is one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world today. The pharmaceutical industry of Bangladesh is known as an emerging industry with great potential. Which is playing a major role in the country’s economy. Despite many crises, this industry has gained enough reputation for its healthy development and quality productivity, and has been able to achieve international standards. Bangladesh continues to thrive in expanding the life-saving industry. It is very important for this sector to play a significant role in strengthening the economic base of the country.
Currently, Bangladesh has gained the glory of an exporting country instead of an importing country in the pharmaceutical industry. Bangladesh is the only country which is becoming known as an exporting country after meeting its domestic needs. Currently, 97 percent of the country’s total demand for drugs is being produced in the country.
However, after independence, 96 percent of medicines had to be imported from abroad. Medicines are being exported to about 80 countries including Europe, America, Middle East, Central Asia. Currently, this industry is in the third position in terms of exports in Bangladesh. The day is not far when this industry will surpass the revenue of the garment industry.
In this era of globalization, the pharmaceutical industry is in a strong position in the context of our country. Therefore, the highest quality control of products is a prerequisite for exporting to join the international market of drugs across the borders of the country. Therefore, in product quality and meaning, Bangladesh will be at the forefront of promotion and expansion. To increase the acceptance of this country’s medicine abroad, its quality testing system must be made to international standards. Many developing countries including neighboring Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan still import most of the drugs.
A significant development in Bangladesh’s health sector is the National Drug Policy, a global indicator for measuring health human development. This policy, which came into effect in 1982, aims to remove harmful and unnecessary drugs from the market and ensure access to essential drugs at fair prices in all cases. As a result of this policy, the pharmaceutical industry of Bangladesh has flourished. Bangladesh Exports of pharmaceutical products to Myanmar was US$11.77 Million during 2015, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.
Medicines worth 188.7 million dollars or one thousand 982 million takas (Taka 105 per dollar) were exported from Bangladesh in the last financial year. Although this medicine is exported to 140 countries of the world, the largest shipment has gone to the neighboring country of Myanmar. The country exported drugs worth 2.76 million dollars or 289 million rupees in the last financial year, which is about 15 percent of the total drug exports. However, Bangladesh accounts for only 5 percent of Myanmar’s total demand for pharmaceuticals, which is almost entirely dependent on imports.
Bangladesh sent medicines and medical equipment worth one crore takas as relief to Myanmar flood victims in 2015.
We believe that there is a very good possibility of increasing Bangladesh’s share in Myanmar’s pharmaceutical sector if it gets government support.
Despite the Rohingya issue, crackdown on insurgents in the border areas under the junta government, drug exports to Myanmar increased by more than 24 percent compared to the previous fiscal year ($22.4 million). But Bangladesh’s share is only 5 percent compared to Myanmar’s demand for medicine every year. According to UN Comtrade data, Myanmar imported about $550 million worth of medicines in 2021. Of this, India imported 298.5 million dollars, which is about 55 percent of the total imports.
Analysis of data from Bangladesh Export Development Bureau (EPB) shows that 34 items of goods were exported from Bangladesh to the neighboring country Myanmar in the last financial year. The income from this product is three million 88 million dollars. Out of this, only medicine has been exported worth 27.6 million dollars, which is about 71 percent of the total exports to Myanmar.
Again, in the fiscal year 2021-22, medicines worth 188.7 million dollars have been exported from Bangladesh to 140 countries of the world. Among them, most of the medicines were exported to Myanmar. It is followed by Sri Lanka, the Philippines and the United States in terms of drug exports. In the last financial year, medicines were exported to the countries worth two crore 32 lakh, two crore 26 lakh and one crore 34 lakh dollars respectively. Myanmar was the top country in the export of drugs from Bangladesh in the previous financial year as well. During this time, drugs worth 2.2 million dollars were exported to the country.
However, Bangladesh is gradually increasing its share. Many export-oriented pharmaceutical companies are now establishing themselves in Myanmar. Chittagong’s Elbion Group is going to add a new name to the list of pharmaceutical exports to Myanmar. Chittagong’s ‘s only drug exporting company is going to export a 20-foot container of omeprazole group drugs to Myanmar next month, worth about 30,000 US dollars. But this is the beginning. According to the information of Elbion group, applications have been made to the Myanmar Medicines Administration for the registration of 40 drugs of different groups. Next month, a shipment of trial basis medicine will go to Myanmar.” The container will go directly to Yangon port in Myanmar via Chittagong sea port. Last June, 40 more drugs were applied for registration. It will take a year to get approval. Elbion will export large scale in the future to the potential market of Bangladeshi drugs if approved. However, in this case, the restrictions imposed by Myanmar’s junta government on foreign currency transactions last April are causing some obstacles.
However, the government should be proactive. In 2014, a 15-member delegation from Myanmar, mostly doctors or pharmacy-related, visited Bangladesh and visited several pharmaceutical factories. After the team returned to Myanmar, there was a positive impact on Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical exports there. In 2010, Myanmar’s domestic demand for medicine was about three billion dollars. Coming there in 2021, we exported medicine to the neighboring country only 27 to 28 million dollars, which is very less. The government should bring the first-line specialist doctors there, who will mainly prescribe the drugs, to Bangladesh and inspect several compliance drug factories here. Presenting the entire process of drug production to them. Then it will definitely have a positive impact.
This business leader believes that the restrictions imposed by the Myanmar junta on foreign exchange transactions will not cause much problem for Bangladeshi businessmen. Because eight countries including Bangladesh and Myanmar are members of the Asian Clearance Agency or ACUR, transactions in their own currency are possible.
The writer is independent researcher and freelance columnist based in Dhaka.