Although the coronavirus pandemic is a major obstacle for carrying out regular activities in both the public and private sectors, Beza's One-Stop Service (OSS) Centre alleviated the situation by providing easy access to information, application processing and other services to investors at home and abroad.
The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority, or Beza, also considers this facility as a means to improve the ease of doing business in the country.
The OSS Centre offers 125 services, of which 37 will be delivered by Beza within the yearend while the remaining 88 will be provided by other departments concerned through the OSS.
Out of the 37 services designated to Beza, the organisation is providing 19 through an online platform. However, the 106 other OSS services are delivered manually.
Ever since the OSS was first launched in October last year with an aim to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh, the centre has helped its clients secure a total of 49 project clearances, 6,219 import permits, 1,184 export permits, 386 visa recommendations, 136 work permits, and 11 trade licences, according to a senior official of the OSS Centre.
"With just a few clicks, investors can now get as many as 19 major approvals from the OSS online platform, which is a good example of how to ensure public safety amid the pandemic," he said.
However, the remaining 18 services to be delivered by Beza will be added to the digital platform by the end of the year. The services in question were set to be added by September but the process has been delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Previously, for a potential entrepreneur to carry out the formalities needed to start a business had to pinball from one desk to the other at numerous government offices.
This meant that starting a business in Bangladesh was a painstakingly time-consuming and expensive task, requiring the approval of 16 applications at most.
But in a bid to streamline the process, Beza plans to provide all 125 of these services under 27 categories by September 30 on the OSS portal launched in October last year.
The initiative is a part of the government's target to pull in $20 billion in foreign direct investment at Bangladesh's economic zones by 2030.
By ensuring the quick delivery of its services without having to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops, the centre has made the use of speed money redundant, the OSS official said.
For example, the issuance of visas for business purposes typically necessitates communication between the foreign and domestic embassies, ministries and a tremendous amount of paperwork.
Now, foreign investors can use the OSS platform to inform Beza beforehand and secure visas upon arrival.
Meanwhile, getting work permits usually requires the applicant to physically deal with a number of government offices. But now, interested individuals can avail the permit from Beza through the OSS.
Accessing bonded warehouse facilities, such as duty-free imports of raw materials needed for future export-oriented production, previously took up to a whole year but thanks to the OSS platform, it now takes around a month.
Earlier, Beza Executive Chairman Paban Chowdhury said the OSS will create a welcoming environment for investors so that their first impressions about Bangladesh will be positive.
He also said that the OSS Centre is a great benefit for investors as the services it provides will only increase from here on and will remove any potential hassles an investor could face when completing certain formalities.
However, some departments of the OSS Centre are yet to introduce an online platform for their respective services and so, it will take Beza some more time to process those applications, Chowdhury added.