For a hands-on approach to country's rankings

Marksman | Published: November 06, 2018 20:56:22 | Updated: November 07, 2018 21:14:32

Bangladesh's performance in World  Bank's  Doing Business  Index, 2019 delivers an embarrassing  but  not a discouraging message  for us. It  will, therefore, be  important  to  wax  proactive  with readings on the barometer  rather than  be  reactive, as if all hell has broken loose  on us!   

Surely it is 'shameful' for us,  as the finance minister  A M A Muhith   noted,  that  Afghanistan   is 'far ahead' of  Bangladesh  in  terms of  offering  ease of doing business. And the negative news  doesn't end  there; it  also hurtful  to  our sensibilities  that  we  have   ranked  the lowest in South Asia. Indeed, it is little consolation that we have notched  one   spot up making it to 176  out of  190 countries.

All  this  gives us a  jolt - one hopes not in passing; yet  we exactly  know  where  we have proved deficient  on  the measuring rod  of  the World Bank which  is uniformly applied  to all countries. So  we get to  know  where  our  weaknesses  are   on a  comparative  scale  to   work on them  for an improvement in next annual index. Simultaneously, we must make it a point to build up on the positives that too have been identified in the global  appraisal report.

 In starting a business, our position has slid to 138th from 131st as of last year. It takes on average 19.5 days to start a business because 'digitalisation of different things are not working properly'. 'Not working properly' is as euphemistic as it is a gross understatement bordering on a mis-statement! It is common knowledge that a number of documents and papers are required  to launch a venture  but    surprisingly  in spite of the much-touted  availability  of    online facilities, in  most cases, the paper work or movement  of files have  to   take the manual   routes. Apart from lack of  speedy  disposal of the matter at hand, changing hands  means  paying every step of the way by an investor  to  clear the   hurdles put up to extort money.

Saquib Quoreshi, an independent business consultant, was quoted in this paper as saying, 'underhand dealings and bribes increase the cost of doing business'. More cogently, he has observed, "Rent-seeking at the functional level  and difficulties in contract enforcement  are the two main reasons behind the  dismal ranking."

The  finance  minister  has  been  candid in an overarching way saying, "Bureaucracy is responsible for this…our bureaucracy is very much powerful. There is no change in their mindset."

Sure  enough  bureaucracy  may   not be  merely  regulatory,  it  can  also be  a hindrance to business  by way of  rendering it uneasy  or increasing its costs. Obviously, attitudes die hard, and that's why a reform agenda  has  never  gotten  obsolete in spite of the  fanfare.

Nevertheless, two doable magical options have not been tried out in a decisive way under the watch of a designated body, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), for instance: First, one-stop service  to investors; and secondly, effective facilitation   of  compliance  with procedural requirements    online.

Finally, what  can  incentivise   us  to scale  new  heights  is  the mantra that if  a war-ravaged  and Taleban-harbouring  Afghanistan  could  climb  16th places in a single year to  rank   167th, what stops Bangladesh  from  carving a much better business  niche than it has this  time around? 

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