The country cannot reach a double digit ranking on the World Bank's ease of doing business index without the proper implementation of policy and regulatory reforms, according to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida).
"There is a need for endorsement from the private sector and World Bank to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh," said Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of Bida.
Islam made these comments while addressing a webinar on the "Ease of doing business: status of 2021", jointly organised by the International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) and Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) yesterday.
According to the executive chairman, Bida has been working to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh for the past three years.
He went on to say that measures have been taken to set up two separate courts to quickly resolve commercial disputes. Islam also hopes that the arbitration act will be updated by next year.
Bida aims to reduce the time it takes to resolve commercial disputes to within 500 days.
Islam alleged that the authorities concerned may agree with Bida on some cases but the majority of disputes are usually prolonged due to a lack of initiative, which is a big challenge for rapid development.
"So, implementing a decision is really tough and this is a major challenge for improving the ease of doing business," he said.
As such, the executive chairman has urged private sector operators to raise their voice against any irregularities of the regulatory bodies instead of engaging in underhand dealings.
He believes the situation will improve rapidly when all development activities are brought under digital platforms.
M Humayun Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, said the private sector has achieved tremendous success over the past five decades despite the lack of support from any corner.
He alleged that files sent to the regulatory bodies move from one table to another while officials inform the investors concerned that the files are being processed.
"Bangladesh needs to start on a new journey to improve the ease of doing business," he added.
Muhammad Abdul Mazid, former secretary and ex-chairman of the National Board of Revenue, said the government has taken effective initiatives to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh.
However, the process will take time.
"Changing mindsets is very important along with honesty and integrity to improve the ease of doing business," he added.
General (retd) M Harun Ar Rashid, now a businessman, said that people abstain from doing business since they have to maintain profit sharing with the authorities concerned and local administration.
"Everybody thinks that business is always profitable so everybody wants to take a share of profit. At the grassroots level, administrations and other relevant offices expect a share of the profits, which is a barrier to business," he added.
Rashid is now involved in a poultry business following 34 years in government services.
He said the agriculture sector faced losses in the last one and a half years due to the pandemic but the banks do not want to provide financial support to the sector.
Even if an investor faces losses, he or she would have to repay bank loans.
"There is no fair business in Bangladesh as consumers expect cheaper products instead of quality. So how can businesses remain competitive?" he said.
MS Siddiqui, legal economist and vice president of the IBFB, said Bida is working hard to improve the country's business environment.
"We focus on foreign direct investment much more than local investment. So, we need the same importance from Bida for the investors at home and abroad," he added.
Siddiqui went on to say that banks are rigid when it comes to providing working capital but they are interested in giving loans for capital machinery and infrastructure development.
M Shahjahan, chairman of the Chattogram Port Authority, said export and import costs have reduced significantly at the port along with improvement of its cargo handling capacity.
However, he alleged that some users are not sincere about releasing their consignments and so, the costs increase.
"Port efficiency is directly involved with the ease of doing business and it is not only the responsibility of a regulatory body, but also depends on users," Shahjahan said.
Moderated by IBFB President Rashid, the webinar was addressed by Md Nazrul Islam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, and Hosne-Ara Begum, executive director of TMSS, among others.