Bangladesh’s position in ease of doing business index is very poor. What types of measures have you taken to improve in the index?
Bangladesh’s position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index is very important as the country’s investment climate is presented to the world investors through it. Given its importance and as per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directive, BIDA is working to make sure that the country holds a double-digit position in the index below 100.
For this, we have taken massive reform programmes within the organisation. Of them, 18 ministries, 25 different organisations and the Supreme Court are helping us. We want to improve in all the 10 criteria set for the ease of doing business index.
What type of steps is BIDA taking to draw investment in the country?
BIDA is dedicatedly working to improve the country’s investment environment. We are working on providing one-stop services for investors. We have also focused on brining in new dimensions of investments by formulating rules for planned industrialisation.
It is said that BIDA was formed after BOI failure. Do you think the investment development authority will be able to succeed?
First of all, I am opposing with the comment on BOI failure as the activities of investment board authorities were in line with the size of the country’s economy.
BOI has a significant role behind the country’s current economic status, but the government has planned to turn Bangladesh into a developed country by 2041 while the size of its economy would be $3 trillion.
To bring about economic boom, the country needs more and more big-size investments, and to get them, the government has reformed the investment authority. Considering new challenges, new perspectives and new time, we are developing BIDA as an investment promotional authority. I hope BIDA has a thirst for bigger economic development by attracting large investment.
Is BIDA receiving all sorts of facility to be an investment promotional authority?
Since the formation of BIDA, we are receiving all sorts of assistance from the government. At the first meeting of BIDA on November 9, 2016, the prime minister approved its organisational structure. We are finalising the body through discussion. It will become a different organisation which will also incorporate solutions to forthcoming problems.
What kind of challenges you face while conducting BIDA’s activities?
There are some challenges facing BIDA. Establishing an organisation is not an easy job. To get the works done, we need skilled workforce. You know Bangladesh is spending around $4-$5 billion on foreign workforce and expertise. For this, we have to work on building expertise and skilled workforces. As we have to do so many works, we are trying to incorporate skilled workforces both from home and abroad.
BIDA is working on how to improve the country’s investment environment. What do you think are the investment opportunities in the country?
I see avenues of investment opportunities in the country. There are three reasons – youngest population of the country, expansion of local market and position of Bangladesh as a global player. I think if we can utilise the three things in a coordinated way, it would help draw huge investment in the country.
Which countries do you hope investment from?
Once it was though that Bangladesh can receive investment from western countries only, but you will be happy to know that not only western countries, but also other countries are also willing to invest in Bangladesh. So, we are expecting investment not only from the west, but also from within the region and from around the world.
Though FDI inflow into the country is on the rise, its ratio is not rising year-on-year basis. What are the reasons behind it?
There are some challenges to FDI inflow. The countries that received a huge FDI are facing a downtrend. But Bangladesh’s situation is different. We have been receiving an increased FDI since 2011. The rate is not rising up to the mark for previous constraints prevailing since long. But we have taken up intensive and massive reform programmes to remove FDI constraints and are getting their advantages.
FDI inflow into Bangladesh was $2.23 billion a year ago. Recently, the country has received $2 investment proposal from a Chinese company. So, we are hoping a remarkable change to the FDI inflow within a short time.
Scarcity of land, gas and power are considered FDI barriers. What measures have you taken to address the issues?
Once, those were big problems for Bangladesh, but not now. We are not receiving any allegations from investors that they fail to start industry for scarcity of these things.
Taxation is considered another barrier to FDI. Investors claim that corporate tax rate is higher than that in the neighbouring countries which affects investments. Do you think the rate should be reduced?
Taxation is a continuous process. It is not barrier to businesses. It so happens that business might succeed in higher taxation rate and also fail while tax rate is lower. But we have to consider the situation as a whole. As we are working on improving the ease of doing business in the country, we have to think about the tax rate. But we have to accept that though there are some needs to improve the current taxation system, it is now more improved than the previous one.
About the corporate tax rate, the world has already submitted several proposals to the government. The government is also mulling over their proposals.
Cabinet approves One-Stop Service (OSS) act recently. How will the act be helpful for investors?
One-stop Service act will help remove all difficulties facing investors before starting their businesses. It will facilitate formation of an authority that will ensure quick services to the investors from a single window. The act is international standard as it has been made following Singapore and New Zealand. The service will be better than that in those countries.
How much is BIDA ready to execute OSS act?
BIDA is going to ensure one-stop service for investors which is very different than that in many other countries and we are providing a complete technology solution, because OSS centre is not like an ordinary motor vehicle office, it is a web-based portal, where investors need not have to go to the offices concerned in person; rather they can apply for investment from any corner of the world. With a view to ensure complete technology solution, we are working in association with our development partners.
What type of one-stop service is BIDA providing now and how long it would take to provide all OSS services?
We are now providing clearance certificates related to foreign borrowing, import recommendations and appointment of foreign employees under the one-stop service. Investors will be able to receive all sorts of services together after the execution of OSS act. BIDA will be able to provide all types of one-stop services totally within the next six months.
Coordination among a total of 16 organisations is needed to provide the services. What about BIDA’s coordination with other organisations?
Coordination is not a matter of concern as it is directly conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office. Moreover, those related to implementation of OSS act would be empowered so that they can make decision without consulting anybody from outside. So, there will not be any question of failure of OSS act.