The country’s top business leaders on Tuesday urged the government to use all possible means and launch an ‘image- rebuilding campaign’ immediately in an effort to let the entire world know ‘things are normal now and Bangladesh is back to business’. Sharing their experiences, the business leaders said the country’s image abroad has ‘extensively’ been tarnished over the last one year in many ways and the international media portrayed Bangladesh very negatively due to a volatile political situation. They also suggested engaging international PR (public relations) agencies to overcome the ‘image deficit’ and remove ‘credibility gap’ so that the international community could know better that Bangladesh is not a place of terrorism. Renowned business personalities put forward this ‘specific proposal’ apart from a slew of proposals in short-term, mid-term and long-term at an opinion-exchange meeting arranged by the Commerce Ministry at a city hotel. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed attended it as the chief guest. “Rebuilding Bangladesh’s image (among the international community) is an immediate task that needs to be done urgently. A taskforce can be formed headed by you and international PR agency can be engaged,” said Syed Manzur Elahi, a prominent businessman and a former caretaker government adviser. Young businessman Syed Nasim Manzur said Bangladesh is back to business and it needs to be projected among the international community and the buyers. “We need to work together and launch an image-building campaign to overcome the image deficit faced Bangladesh in the last few months.” Quoting the global lending agency World Bank (WB), BGMEA president M Atiqul Islam said Bangladesh is an ‘unpolished’ diamond and that requires to be polished. “Let’s give the entire world a message that things are normal here.” President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh Abdus Salam Murshedy said restoring the country’s image should be the first job. President of Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Rupali Chowdhury said they are ready to extend any support to the government to launch an image-building campaign. Top business leaders demanded quick completion of Dhaka-Chittagong four-lane highway and want an urgent initiative from the government to have a dedicated Dhaka-Chittagong Expressway linking Chittagong port and future deep seaport for uninterrupted transportation of goods. “The economy has largely been diversified. We’ve to have an expressway in the long term. It can be dedicated to the PPP (public private partnership),” said former FBCCI Presidents Salman F Rahman. CCCI president Mahbubul Alam also sought initiatives for the quick implementation of the Dhaka-Chittagong four-lane, and having a dedicated expressway in the future. Salman F Rahman said the government and private sector must go forward with short-term, mid-term and long-term plans. “There’ll be some solutions in the short term. What is more important is that what we should do in the mid- and long-term.” He suggested the government to think of alternative resources to gas as this energy is limited. Former FBCCI President AK Azad said the entrepreneurs were not borrowing from the banking sector due to lack of confidence and claimed that Tk 100, 000 crore liquidity remained idle in the banking sector. “If a peaceful atmosphere persists, we’ll again be encouraged for investment,” Azad said adding that the bank interest rate should be reduced to encourage more investment. Tofail Ahmed assured them of addressing the concerns to help keep the wheel of the economy moving. He said he will soon arrange another similar meeting in presence of the Finance Minister AMA Muhith, and expressed his desire to form a business advisory committee with the top business leaders. “The bottom line is that we’ll remove the barriers…we’ll rebuild the image. I don’t want to bring political issue here. But I must say there had been an effort to turn Bangladesh a failed state like Pakistan,” Tofail said. He also said they have started a new journey and the country’s interest will get the priority in their each step. “We seek your support.” President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Kazi Akramuddin Ahmed, Transcom Group chairman Latifur Rahman, MCCI President Rokia Afzar Rahman, former FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain, BKMEA president AKM Selim Oslam, BTMA president Jahangir Alamin, president of International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICCB) Mahbubur Rahman, and CCCI president, among others, spoke at the discussion. Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed and other officials of the Commerce Ministry were also present.