Bangladesh needs to quickly design and roll out policy actions and reforms on long-standing issues holding back private investment in order to effectively address the unfolding impacts of coronavirus-led economic shocks, said experts and stakeholders.
They came up with the view at the third Resurgent Dialogue ‘Private Investment in Uncertain Times: COVID Impact and Policy Implications for Bangladesh’ on Sunday.
The dialogue was organised by Resurgent Bangladesh in partnership with MCCI, DCCI, Chittagong Stock Exchange, BUILD, and Policy Exchange.
The speakers also highlighted some immediate priorities to boost the investment climate in the country to help stimulate recovery the investment dynamism in a post-coronavirus world.
The immediate priorities include:
- Identification of new opportunities that COVID-19 presents
- Aligning critical reforms with country’s formal development strategies
- Actively exploring new investment sources such as from those in Europe and South Asia
- Aligning the vision of the top policy makers with the actions at the implementation level
- Addressing tax and foreign exchange constraints
The session, moderated by MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir, was attended by members of parliament, Executive Chairman of BIDA, Executive Chairman BEPZA, serving and former top civil servants, leading foreign and local investors, economists, and development partners.
Asif Ibrahim, chairman of Chittagong Stock Exchange and member of Resurgent Bangladesh steering committee, gave the welcome speech.
He stressed the importance to enhance private investment and improve the business climate to help Bangladesh meet development needs and devise effective revival from COVID-19 shocks.
Policy Exchange Chairman Dr. Masrur Reaz, during the keynote presentation, stressed the need to identify evolving shifts in global production systems, investor priorities and how they shape future investment outlook, opportunities, and associated policy framework in the wake of COVID-led economic challenges.
Dr. Reaz also laid out possible strategic opportunities to leverage, and a five-pronged approach to revive the lagging pace of private and foreign investment in Bangladesh.
Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear, suggested that weaknesses in customs and logistics, and foreign exchange regime create colossal burden on both local and foreign private investors which requires immediate overhaul.
Kedar Lele, managing director and CEO of Unilever Bangladesh, emphasised opportunities to tap into South Asia intraregional trade and investment prospects.
Grameen Phone CEO Yaser Azman opined that the reform of overall regulatory framework followed by tax policy consistency will help significantly improve the business climate.
Former Industries secretary and National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan called for stepping up regular and structured dialogue between regulators such as NBR and business community.
Another former Chairman of NBR Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed stressed the need to embed modernisation of NBR and tax systems into the long-term development strategies such as the 8th five year plan.
Chairman of BUILD Abul Kasem Khan suggested that Bangladesh needs to better exploit the huge markets of China and India.
President of Spanish Chamber and member of European Union Business Council Nuria Lopez, Foreign Chamber Executive Director Nurul Kabir, Secretary General of Economic Reporters Forum Rashidul Islam also spoke among others.
In his summary of the discussion, Dhaka Chamber President Shams Mahmud shared difficult experience of Italian investors in Bangladesh and how regulatory service-delivery agencies in government create hurdles for investors.
Member of Parliament Nahim Razzak, a member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs hinted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently formed dedicated unit to support trade and investment initiatives. He voiced his support for quick reforms to address long-standing tax issues.
Waseqa Ayesha Khan MP, Finance and Planning secretary of Awami League central committee, shared multi-pronged government strategy to deal with economic impact of COVID, and agreed with need for quick reforms to improve the Doing Business ranking, and Bangladesh’s branding.
Executive Chairman of BEZA Major General Salahuddin Islam hinted that the bold stimulus and the labour cost advantage will help Bangladesh tap into greater private investments.
He also stressed the need to a address inefficiencies at the level of service delivery to the investors.
BIDA Executive Chairman Sirazul Islam shared that the government is moving ahead with reforms in bankruptcy and customs act.
He highlighted that line agencies providing last-mile services to investors need to quickly complete their IT readiness in order for the One-stop-shop to be completed fast.