BIDA needs to get its act together

Published: January 09, 2019 22:13:52 | Updated: January 11, 2019 22:11:57

When the Board of Investment (BOI) and the Privatisation Commission (PC) were merged on September 01, 2016 to create the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), it was regarded as a step in the right direction. The institutional amalgamation signalled the end of a desultory approach to investment, disinvestment, enterprise and industrialisation. Collaterally, it should have marked the beginning of a compact, coherent and unified authority exercising its remit on such vital economic parameters. The inception of the BOI and PC dates back to 2000 and that of BIDA is two and a quarter years. With such a baggage of vestigial remnants and pitfalls stacked against the BIDA -- little by way of sound precedents to follow up on -- the latter has apparently found it difficult to make a fresh start.

Nevertheless, BIDA is strategically placed on two levels to assert its capacity for easing business or facilitating investment on a competitive basis. Firstly, all industrial enterprises are required to be registered with BIDA and without it, investors and entrepreneurs will not be able to obtain any essential licenses and papers such as import and export registration certificates as well as bond facility. Secondly, BIDA's strategic functions include pre-investment counselling services, approval of branch or liaison offices, issue of work permits to foreign nationals, approval of royalty, approval for foreign loans and supplier's credit, among others.

As for BIDA's office building, eight and a half years was sought to complete its construction at the headquarter at Agargaon. It hardly fits in with its basically onerous and weighty functions, that after two revised designs and estimates, necessitated by a grandiose plan to have luxurious fittings etc, the estimated cost notches up to TK 2.0 billion from its originally estimated cost of TK.983.48 million. Having said all that, the question that crops up is plainly this: Why has the one-stop service flagship initiative yet to be in its old place more than two years after its emergence and one year since the parliamentary enactment on the subject?

Thankfully, the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) has flagged off its online one-stop service (OSS) on trial basis pending its formal launch at January-end.  Online OSS will provide services and documents digitally to domestic and foreign investors-completely automated, paperless and cashless. A very high premium is placed on coordination among BIDA, the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC) and the National Board of Revenue (NBR). At the same time Internet service will have to operate without a chink in the armour. That a good number of government agencies have signed agreements with BIDA for providing services through the platform augurs well but the proof will be in the pudding.

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