Before making an investment decision, a foreign company would like to be sure that the environment of doing business in the country of choice is congenial. Does Bangladesh meet the criteria of a sought-after investment destination? Taking its ranking on the World Bank (WB)-prepared Ease of Doing Business Index (EoDBI)-2020 as the basis, Bangladesh ranked 168 out of 190 nations. Compared to 2019's ranking at 176, the country gained eight more points in a year. Though these mark laudable inches forward, the country is yet to attract investment as per its potential. It is pitted against its closest neighbours like India, Nepal and Bhutan in the rankings.
Against this backdrop, the government has adopted a strategy to fast-track the work of improving its ranking on the EoDBI. With this end in view, the state agency to promote investment, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, (BIDA), has set a target of providing 154 One-Stop Services (OSS) to prospective investors by 2021. On this score, three years back, BIDA signed a deal with three city corporations of Dhaka and Chattogram to the effect that trade licences for businesses would be issued within 24 hours of application through an automated One Stop Service (OSS) platform. It was also agreed on that occasion that, in all, eight services would be provided by that OSS portal through BIDA. At long last, recently, the mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), launched the licence issuing service through the OSS portal of BIDA. It is further learnt that henceforth, from this OSS portal, 42 services would be provided to businesses through 12 government organisations. What is worth noting here is the fact that after all some progress, if not much, has been made despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
However, considering the government's emphasis on expediting development activities, there is hardly any room for being even unwittingly tardy. It may be noted at this point that the government has set a very ambitious target of turning Bangladesh into a global investment destination. To that end, as envisaged in the country's Eighth Five-Year Plan (FY2021-25), the GDP growth target has been set at 8.51 per cent, and the Private Investment-to-GDP ratio at 28.2 per cent. But what amount of foreign investment in the economy would be required to attain that target by 2025? According to an estimate, it would be around USD610.57 billion. By any measure, the target is very lofty. But before even expecting to reach close to the target, if not exactly making it, the government will have to get its act together and move very fast. The relevant government organisations would be required to deliver their service to businesses seeking it at lightning speed!
Needless to say, the government has a long way to go. With the advancement of digital technology, it is not a big deal, at least, in theory, to bring the services of scores of government organisation under one roof. But in practice, it is an uphill task. The age-old bureaucracy is notorious for its inertia. There is also the resistance from vested quarters. So many issues factor into the effort to integrate the services of different government departments and channel those through a single point, the so-called OSS. Obviously, it is a challenging job but digitisation paves a pathway. It is believed that given the political will the challenge can be overcome.