Kazi M Aminul Islam, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, speaking at a discussion jointly organised by the Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and BIDA at a Dhaka hotel on Wednesday. The chief of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority or BIDA has urged the private sector to play the lead role in “transforming” Bangladesh into a developed country. Executive Chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said Bangladesh has dual goals ahead – one is the SDGs and the other is the Vision 2041 when the country aims to becoming a developed nation.
He said the labour force cannot alone drive the transformation.
“Next 10 years, 15 years or 20 years would be totally different – unlike anything we have seen before. We started as a nation with comparative advantage in labour. Structure of economy is changing. Economic activity is moving from labour to skills, skills to knowledge, knowledge to innovation,” the BIDA chief said.
“It will depend on how we make the best use of the digital economy in order to transform.”
He said there are a “lot of divides from economic to social in Bangladesh, but one thing that we all agree is the role of private sector. The private sector has a leading role”.
The BIDA chief spoke at the business lunch meeting co-organised with the Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry or CanCham on Wednesday in Dhaka.
CanCham Bangladesh President Masud Rahman, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Naser Ezaz Bijoy, HSBC Bank CEO Francois de Maricourt, the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry or FICCI President Shehzad Munim, Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley, and President of Switzerland-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce Naquib Khan also spoke at the meeting on the ease of doing business and one-stop services for FDI.
The CanCham president said Bangladesh needed $928 billion from 2017 to 2030 to implement the UN SDGs. So, the country needed to find innovative ways to fund SDGs. Bangladesh has more than 13 million employable young population, aged 15 to 29 years looking for jobs, but most of them are unskilled.
He said the export is dependent on readymade garments. To diversify, the government should also take next-generation business-friendly policies and plans for other emerging potential sectors to increase their contribution in export earnings as well as GDP.
“All these need huge investment. So far, the countrys efforts to make it a destination for FDI are yet to be optimum. The main reasons are lack of infrastructure, bureaucratic tangles, lack of industrial energy, weak institutional framework and delay in completing paperwork for starting a business,” Masud added.
“These are also necessary for Bangladesh to improve the ease of doing business and make the one-stop service centre of BIDA more investment-friendly for Bangladesh, and more effective.
“The software development to provide 150 services to implement one-stop service (OSS) act of Bangladesh has almost been completed following the Singapore model.”
The CanCham chief suggested that BIDA form an advisory body with the private sector to accelerate the process and make the OSS effective.
“The country should also be branded with the help of international media like CNN and BBC,” he said as businessmen highlighted that the image crisis was an issue behind Bangladesh drawing less investment that expected.
FICCI President Shehzad Munim identified both image and attitude as the challenges for luring FDI into the country.
He said media is occupied by negatives, though there are positive things. “We need to do an image campaign like Malaysia and India,” he said.
Naquib Khan said branding is a big issue for Bangladesh.
“Rana Plaza is the worst thing that has happened to Bangladesh. But we have seven green factories in the world. Its not publicized,” he said. “Only Rana Plaza is publicised. We have to focus on that. Its a very big barrier for investments in Bangladesh.”
“We need to have proper facilities for one-stop services.”
GrameenPhone CEO Foley said there are significant challenges that need to be addressed quickly.
One of those he highlighted was the regulatory aspect.
This year, he said, they got 25 regulatory directives so far– thats “really strange”.
He said regulations need to be minimum, strategic, consistent, measurable, cost-effective, and stability of regulations was also important.
Standard Chartered Bank Chief Executive Naser Ezaz stressed one-stop service at BIDA and said it will only work when there will be seamless package of services at one point where companies will get all approvals.