Bangladesh achieved the lower middle income country status in 2015, with the hope of graduating from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2024. At the same time, we have a vision to become a developed nation by 2041. Bangladesh's successes in different parameters of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have been praised by global think-tanks and investment banks. Renowned investment banker Goldman Sachs and economist Jim O'Neill identified Bangladesh as one of the Next Eleven (N11) countries along with Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam back in 2005.
In one of his recent articles published by BARRON'S on 28 April 2018, O' Neill praised Vietnam for its successful journey of economic development from 2005 to 2018. He described Turkey and South Korea as countries having living standards similar to the European countries. But he was completely silent about Bangladesh.
Similarly, JP Morgan identified Bangladesh as one of the Frontier Five (Frontier 5) countries along with Vietnam, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Kenya in 2007. JP Morgan revised this list of Frontier Five in 2017 by keeping Ghana, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Peru, and Colombia in the list, which they felt have more investment opportunities and prospects. Bangladesh was again missing from this list as well. Therefore, it is time for Bangladesh to rethink its entrepreneurial ecosystem: Why we are absent from such influential global ratings? Is it because Bangladesh was more promising for investment in 2005 or 2007 than the developing Bangladesh of today? Or is it because our entrepreneurial ecosystem is becoming more complex due to absence of certain entrepreneurial tendencies or features?
Let us try to analyse entrepreneurship, factors that influence it, models of entrepreneurship development, and significance of entrepreneurship for a developing country like Bangladesh. Scholars have defined entrepreneurship in different ways. For example, Kuratko & Hodgetts defined entrepreneurship as a dynamic process of vision, change, and creation. It requires application of energy and passion towards the creation and implementation of new ideas and creative solutions. It includes the willingness to take calculated risks in terms of time, equity, or to marshal needed resources and fundamental skills towards building solid business plans.
According to Harvard Kennedy School, entrepreneurship consists of any earnest activity that starts, maintains, and develops a profit-oriented business in interactions with internal situation of the business and external situations like economic, social, and political ones surrounding the business. In simplified form, we can say that entrepreneurship is an entity to commercialise an idea or innovation with a profit motive by taking calculated risks. Entrepreneur is that risk-taker who organises all the factors of production and uses them to convert an idea into a profitable venture.
Two types of environmental factors have influence over entrepreneurship, namely internal or controllable factors and external or uncontrollable factors. Controllable internal factors are lack of efficient manpower, absence of technical knowledge or appropriate machineries, managerial know-how, cost of the factors of production etc.
One of the most important comparative advantages of Bangladesh is its young manpower. But there is a shortage of skilled manpower in the market; as a result, local entrepreneurs are employing many foreign managers and technicians in the readymade garments sector. We have a scope to develop need-based, industry-specific skilled manpower in Bangladesh. But unfortunately, all the public and private universities are generating job-seekers educated on old-fashioned curricula. As a result, they are not capable of fulfilling the needs of different industrial sectors and remain unemployed. More than three million educated young men and women are unemployed in the country now. Additional two million educated job-seekers are entering the economy every year. Therefore, there is tough competition for availing any job. The government can revise the academic curricula after consultations with the industries and incorporate current issues to mitigate this challenge. Private sector entrepreneurs can be encouraged to spend money for their employees' training at home and abroad in order to develop their skills and improve productivity in the local industries. There can be a provision in the next national budget for allowing private enterprises to spend five per cent of their income for capacity development of their workforce by offering equal amounts of tax waiver.
Uncontrollable or external factors include inconsistency of government policies, discontinuation of policies, frequent shift of policies, unjustified taxation system, corruption in government departments, unprofessional bureaucracy, deteriorating law and order situation, extortions etc. Bangladesh is suffering from negative impacts through each of the uncontrollable factors. Therefore, doing business here is more complicated and costlier than the competing countries. As a result, it is performing miserably in the global 'doing business' index every year. Our complex, time-consuming and corrupt processes of business registration and approvals are discouraging local youths from becoming entrepreneurs and are also repelling foreign investors.
Bangladesh needs a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem to sustain its status as a developing country and graduate to a developed nation status, because entrepreneurs have a significant role in the economic growth of a country in the following ways:
In conclusion, we can say that entrepreneurship plays a multidimensional role in the development of a country. Therefore, the Bangladesh government should ensure a healthy ecosystem to encourage new entrepreneurs and promote proper growth of existing players by implementing business-friendly policies, regulations, processes, ensuring law and order, and curbing corruption, extortions etc. Bangladesh has a long way to go in creating a congenial entrepreneurial ecosystem and improving its current ranking in the global 'doing business' index. Without effective steps that can address these issues, foreign investors are unlikely to come in a big way, while local investors may be lured to migrate to other countries.
Md. Joynal Abdin is Executive Director (Additional Secretary), DCCI Business Institute (DBI).
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