Strengthening integrated One Stop Service for investors
One Stop Service (OSS) is one of the most popular service-oriented concepts in the world in order to make the government more efficient, accountable, and its activities more transparent to ensure smooth services to the investors. Mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic, this system has played and continues to play a significant role to centralise the execution of a number of investment services. The Government of Bangladesh has promulgated the One Stop Service Act 2018 primarily in order to streamline the process through which investors need to comply with various regulatory requirements related to setting up and running of businesses in Bangladesh. Under this Act, the Government has further issued One Stop Service (Bangladesh Investment Development Authority) Rules 2020. According to the Act, the four IPAs —Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA), and Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) — are mandated to provide one-stop services to local and foreign investors under their respective jurisdictions.
It is pertinent to mention here that investors will get all relevant services by stipulated time frame in accordance with the Rules 2020. If the concerned officer fails to dispose of any application within stipulated time due to negligence, irregularity and/or non-cooperation, he will be held liable for professional incompetence and misconduct. This has resulted in a significant shift in the mindset of the government officials so as to facilitate the provision of services in due time.
Therefore, the government of Bangladesh is dedicated to providing a single-window solution to investors for establishing and operating a business. BIDA hosts the country's main OSS portal, which will be accessible to investors from anywhere in the world through a single online application. The relevant line-ministries and agencies will provide all services related to investment including registration, recommendation, licenses, permissions or approvals through this online portal. This is key to improving the ease of doing business index subject to reduce processes, time, and cost involved with starting and running a business in Bangladesh.
It will be prudent to note that BIDA has already signed MoUs with 25 agencies to ensure all the investment related services to the investors efficiently and smoothly. This OSS system is equipped with real time monitoring to maintain the swift processing of files for ensuring hassle-free, transparent and contactless services to the investors. To initiate the process for getting the services, investors have to visit https://bidaquickserv.org and create an OSS User ID, update company profile with basic information which will be duly approved within an hour. Next, investors can apply for any services by simply logging into BIDA OSS portal. Concerned official will dispose of the applicable services timely after scrutiny of all the required documents uploaded in the online application.
It is a matter of hope that, as of now, investors get 47 services through this OSS portal. BIDA offers its own 16 services while other 14 government offices provide 31 services including Name Clearance and Company Registration, Trade License, e-TIN registration, VAT registration, MOHA security clearance, Electricity Connections, Industrial Registration with BIDA, IRC Recommendation, Visa recommendation for categories PI, E, E1 VOA, Work permit, Office Permission for branch/liaison/representative office, NID verification, Remittance Approval, Land Use Clearance, Certificate of Origin, Membership Certificate, Environmental Clearance Certificate and online Payment Gateway etc. BIDA is working with a view to expanding 154 services covering 35 agencies under a single umbrella without paying any visit to government offices.
At present, Investors will get all types of trade and investment services including registration, clearance, permits, recommendation and approval from various government agencies from one day to up to 45 days in accordance to the Rule. They will get name clearance in a single day and certificate of incorporation in a week, gas line in seven days and electricity connection in 14 days, environment clearance certificates from one week to 30 days, depending on the types of factories. Investors will also get various documents, namely tax and VAT registration certificates, customs clearance and the country-of-origin certificate in a day. They will get approval from the Fire Service and Civil Defense office on fire safety in 30 days and get licenses on fire safety in 15 days.
A report by World Bank identified that starting business in Bangladesh is difficult, particularly because the initial spending on getting licenses and permits is very high. Progress on realising a comprehensive OSS for businesses got slowed down by bureaucratic delays, absence of transparent procedures and lack of inter-agencies coordination. To move out from that, the government is planning to integrate the services of all four investment promotion agencies on a single online platform for setting up business processes including aftercare services for creating an enabling environment so as to help them keep pace with the emerging challenges. Inter-agency Coordination among other Government bodies has to be more effective to provide OSS services for Investors. Therefore, BIDA is coordinating with other agencies for bringing about massive reforms in order to promote a more sustainable and inclusive investment environment.
Although some agencies have started their services by integrating their systems with the web system of BIDA, they have been unable to start their services on account of technological incompetence. Government should focus on the capacity building of the concerned officials to ensure hassle-free and quality services rapidly to investors. It will be difficult to reach the goal if the service providers do not act proactively.
The abovementioned OSS facilities have the potential to make the investors more confident to invest in Bangladesh. This system will play a remarkable role in supporting investors during and after the Covid-19 pandemic both for local and foreign companies in terms of getting the services easily from government offices. The integration of OSS in government agencies has accelerated significantly during the COVID-19 and delivered the services efficiently through a single window with a view to improving the investment facilitations to the investors in a time bound manner. The Bangladesh government has been working to integrate OSS platform within a single window for doing business in a hassle-free manner.
The writer is Law Officer, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority under Prime Minister's Office and Advocate, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.