The chief of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) has said India’s stunning success in the ease of doing business ranking indicates that Bangladesh can also pull it off. “We have to improve a lot. And we are working for that,” Executive Chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said on Tuesday. He said this improvement is necessary for the massive investments needed for the “transformation” of Bangladesh to be a developed country by 2041 which would be a $3 trillion economy.
“We have made a lot of progress, no doubt about it. If we really want the transformation, we have to have massive improvement. For that we are working on ease of doing business.
"India has done pretty well that indicates we can also do the same.”
The BIDA chief was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladeshs (AmCham) monthly luncheon meeting at The Westin Dhaka Hotel.
A panel discussion was held in that meeting on “Economic Outlook of Bangladesh”.
Country Director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Manmohan Parkash, Director of the Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management and former finance secretary Mohammad Tareque, and Member of the Board of Directors of Bangladesh Bank and former president of AmCham Aftab-ul-Islam spoke as the panelists.
AmCham President Md Nurul Islam conducted the discussion. Apart from the BIDA executive chairman, President of FBCCI Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin also spoke at the discussion.
According to the latest ranking released recently, India has climbed 23 positions to rank 77 among the 190 countries in the World Banks doing business report.
Bangladesh languishes at 176, which is just one position up from the last year.
India has improved its rank by 53 points in the last two years, a jump that has not been achieved by any economy comparable with it in size and scale.
Bangladesh under the BIDA for the first time launched reform initiatives to improve the ranking in 2017.
The BIDA chief said despite the low score, “the good news is that if we could achieve more than 7 percent growth, a little bit improvement will take Bangladesh to double digit growth that we are looking for and working for".
The ADB country director said they are happy to see Bangladeshs progress.
“Bangladesh is on the right path. Bangladesh is doing the right thing. Resilience of the people, continuity of the public policy, and political stability are the hall marks of goods developments,” he said.
The ADB recently launched country operations business plan or COBP from 2019 to 2021 for Bangladesh.
Former finance secretary Tareque sounded optimistic and said miracle is already happening in Bangladesh.
He said in 1973, the population growth rate was over 4 percent which is now less than 1.2 percent. "We have family size which is near the replacement level. In 1973, the growth was coming from the agriculture sector and now almost 30 percent comes from the manufacturing industry.”
“Life expectancy in 1973 was somewhere around 45 years, now it is 74 years which is four years higher than India whose per capita income is twice that of Bangladesh.
“Here lies the real miracle of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is not only moving economically, Bangladesh is having miracle in terms of socio-economic development,” he said.
Former AmCham president Aftab said Bangladesh should seriously look into the issue of ease of doing business index.
“We have been beaten by Afghanistan also,” he pointed out, adding that private sector should be involved actively to look at what is going wrong.
“Bangladesh economy is being led by the private sector which is generating 85 percent of the job,” he said.
He also criticised the NBR policy on foreign investments and said due to high tax rates foreign investment is not happening in Bangladesh.
“Tax is highest in Bangladesh compared with neighbouring countries. Corporate tax is one of the highest in Bangladesh. (With such high taxes) Are you going to punish successful foreign investors?” he asked.
He also pointed out the problems in the banking sector. From his personal experience as a director of the central banks board, he said, “Bangladesh Bank has become an extension of the Ministry of Finance, though the absolute power should be in the hands of governor.”